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John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 22, 2017

I am beginning to feel more comfortable as the Interim VP of our organization. I hope you are becoming more comfortable with me. For those of you who don’t know me, Advancement put together a brief video interview with me that gives you more background and perspective, and gives them more material for the blooper reel. I’m reminded of the reference about making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but I think it turned out all right.

 still from John Lawrence video

People have been asking questions about whether there are changes in direction for ISU Extension and Outreach and where are we headed. The simple answers are no and forward. As I listen and learn about our organization, people and work, I believe that we are doing well and I encourage you to continue moving forward. Iowa State has a new strategic plan and ISU Extension and Outreach along with the colleges are reviewing and revising their plans to be consistent with the university’s plan. Through that process we will assess direction and function and share any changes through our system. Similarly, as I learn things that deserve attention and we adjust to budget pressures, those changes also will be shared.

We still want a #StrongIowa. We achieve it by feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities to prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it. We serve as a 99-county campus, connecting the needs of Iowans with Iowa State University research and resources. We provide education and partnerships designed to solve today’s problems and prepare for the future.

By the way, in spite of what you thought about my video interview, you should watch and share our videos that showcase the work of our people throughout the state. Did you know?

  • Our Story videos share the stories of our programs and people working for a strong Iowa.
  • UKnow features a variety of ISU Extension and Outreach “how to” videos with research-based, do-it-yourself advice.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach YouTube channel is your connection to videos about our organization, as well as from our program areas and university partners.

One more thing: Mark your calendars and save the date for Annual Conference 2018. It’s set for Monday, March 26, 2018 – at the Scheman Building on the Iowa State campus in Ames.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Innovation, sustainability and cyber security

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 15, 2017

Using what works from past experience – something sustainable – to create something innovative. That was the topic of our 2017 Annual Conference and the challenge we put forth in our follow-up request for proposals. I am pleased to announce the recipients of our four $2,500 innovation and sustainability grants.

  • Jennifer Best, Scott County; Full-Service Community Schools Initiative – Davenport. Extension and Outreach will work with Madison Elementary and community leaders to educate families about a new preschool site, enroll neighborhood 4-year-olds in the program and support the families. Their goal is to ensure a best start to the children’s academic career.
  • Danielle Day, Dubuque County; Dubuque Farm to Institution Local Foods Project. This program will help build relationships between local farmers wanting to increase their scale of wholesale production and institutions looking for ways to increase their procurement of locally grown foods.
  • Leah Feltz, Hamilton County; Engaging the Latino Community. Hamilton County 4-H plans to grow sustainable relationships with strong informal leaders and beneficial programs within the Latino community. They also plan to add interpreters to their 4-H Clover Kids programming to grow a sense of belonging within their services.
  • Jed Findlay and Willy Klein, Advancement; Portable Educational Display for the Land Grant Legacy Project. Advancement will create a portable interactive media display containing stories, profiles and facts about Iowa’s land grant legacy to connect more Iowans to Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach. The goal is to offer an experience that strengthens a sense of community as it helps people from different cultural groups, backgrounds and interests begin to fashion a local culture that expresses their unity in being Iowan.

Another way we innovate is through technology. Before I started this interim vice president position, I signed off on “ANR by the Numbers,” a mini annual report for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach. In 2016 we reported on our increasing engagement online – including 7.7 million webpage views, nearly 6 million unique visitors to our websites and more than 4 million downloads (webinars, podcasts and presentations). On May 1 enrollment opened for another ANR offering – an online review course to help Iowans prepare for the Certified Crop Adviser examination. The course includes presentations on crop, pest, nutrient, and soil and water management – all linked directly to CCA performance objectives. Participants can access the material on their schedule. CCAs work with farmers on nearly every acre every year, so the impact of this education is significant.

Online engagement is a big deal for all our program areas, units and departments in ISU Extension and Outreach. It also can be a huge vulnerability, as we increasingly do our work on our portable and hackable laptops, tablets and smartphones. We need to keep cyber security top of mind.

Have you changed your Net ID password lately? If you have, you are in the minority. Extension Information Technology says only 27 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are less than 1 year old. Did you know?

  • 49 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are 1 to 5 years old.
  • 11 percent are 5 to 10 years old.
  • 13 percent are more than 10 years old.

Passwords are not like our vehicles where age and miles are a point of pride. If you’re using an old password, it’s time for a change. If you’re using something easy, like cyclone1 or your dog’s name or 12345, it’s time for a change, too. I changed mine while I was writing this update. Now it is your turn.

Longer, complex passwords or passphrases are more secure than shorter, simple passwords. Good, strong passwords protect your personal information as well as the business, research and educational information of the university. Extension IT recommends changing your Net-ID password every six months (I put the reminder on my calendar.) and has suggestions for selecting a password that’s harder to hack. Follow the instructions  or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725 if you need help. You’re going to be hearing more on this topic from University IT and Extension IT.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Buy. Eat. Live Healthy.

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 8, 2017

By now you’ve probably noticed a pattern. You find a message from me in your inbox from time to time. This will continue – usually once a week and most of the time on Monday. I’ll be sharing what I’m hearing from our partners, stakeholders and all of you. I may include announcements and updates, and maybe some ISU Extension and Outreach history, but I’ll also share what I’m learning about our programs.

I continue to learn and be amazed by the great work of our colleagues in ISU Extension and Outreach. Each month program directors send me a brief update – points of pride about their programs. It helps me know what is going on and provides me information to share with stakeholders and with the rest of our organization. The example below is from two members of the Human Sciences team regarding the “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” program.

“Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” helps Iowans who are experiencing poverty make the healthiest choices possible when grocery budgets are tight. Did you know?

  • Christine Hradek says in 2016 the program served households representing 5,306 people.
  • More than 35 campus and county extension staff work with the program.
  • Fifty-one percent of all clients served in “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” are racial or ethnic minorities and 71 percent have incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
  • In 2016, 49 percent of participants increased their consumption of fruits, 50 percent increased their consumption of vegetables, 44 percent were more physically active and 87 percent improved their food resource management, which means they are less likely to run out of food by month’s end.

Jill Weber shared news of an exciting day for the program in Black Hawk County. She said program assistant Gail Forristall graduated “the most diverse class in our history, with three languages being translated in the same class – French, Bosnian and Spanish. The class was recruited during a visit Gail made to an ELL class at the YWCA. The participants came to the office weekly on Saturday mornings to participate in ‘Buy. Eat. Live Healthy.’ The group identified questions they had related to family finance and we arranged for Jeannette Mukayisire to visit one of the classes. They will now go into ‘Your Money Your Goals’ with Jeannette, the family finance specialist.”

This is a great example of ISU Extension and Outreach making a difference in people’s lives. And, they have the evaluations to prove it. Furthermore, Gail’s recruitment strategy was direct and to the point. Go to the people and help them address their needs. Our colleagues also provided comprehensive programming. What started as education on healthy eating and living led to a financial management course. Chances are that these participants will continue as ISU Extension and Outreach clients and turn to us with other questions.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

New staff, mentoring and CED

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 1, 2017

Well, these few weeks of “acting” are over. It seems the Iowa State powers that be haven’t changed their minds, because I’m “interim” now. And that’s OK. I’ve always seen myself as a utility infielder for ISU Extension and Outreach. Whatever job needs to be done, I try to step up and help. I enjoy the opportunity to work with great faculty, staff and councils. And it’s truly an honor to help shape our next generation of extension professionals. I’m looking forward to New Staff Orientation on Thursday.

Did you know?

  • After our 2011 leadership summit, we started paying closer attention to how we introduce new staff to ISU Extension and Outreach. We formalized orientation and created an onboarding checklist for everyone – campus, field and county.
  • We now conduct New Staff Orientation twice a year, in spring and fall.
  • We’ll welcome 32 staff during New Staff Orientation on May 4.
  • It’s a full agenda with overviews on our structure, program areas, advancement, conference planning and management, the Iowa Extension Council Association, and respect in the workplace.

Another essential part of bringing new staff up to speed in our organization is mentoring – how we experienced extension professionals welcome, coach and shepherd our new colleagues. Having an engaged mentor can make a real difference in the success of a new hire and ultimately our organization. Without an engaged mentor we run the risk of the “tragedy of the commons”: It is everyone’s responsibility, therefore someone else will take care of it. Wrong. While it is everyone’s responsibility to make ISU Extension and Outreach a rewarding and enjoyable place to work, it is the mentors’ responsibility to shepherd our new colleagues through our system and culture, and to help them launch a successful career. The Mentor Academy led by our Professional Development unit equips our folks to be good mentors and to build great colleagues.

I also have an update on the Community and Economic Development director search: The search committee has named a finalist for the position of Associate or Full Professor – Director of ISU Extension and Outreach Program to Communities and Economic Development; Associate Director of the Institute for Design Research and Outreach; and Director of Design Extension. That candidate is Gary D. Taylor, current interim director for CED and an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Community and Regional Planning. You can learn about his interests and qualifications for the position during a public forum May 15 at 2:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Gold Room. You also can participate via webinar. Information about Gary’s background is available on our Human Resources website.

Our people are our greatest asset and, as with any valuable asset, we must invest in them. Whether you are new staff or more seasoned, I hope that you all are proud of what you do, that you are supported in a way that you can do your job effectively, and that you are valued and appreciated by the people you work with and those you serve. Together we help Iowans identify needs, seek opportunities and achieve their fullest potential. We are the trusted source of unbiased information to help Iowans make better decisions to improve their lives and their communities for a strong Iowa. We are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

County events, offices and councils

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 24, 2017

One of the perks of this job I’ve noticed so far is an open invitation to county events. In the past week I attended Mahaska County’s 100th anniversary celebration dinner, Polk County’s 100th anniversary open house and Worth County’s open house at their new office. The hamburgers were great (Thanks, Mahaska County Cattlemen!), the rain didn’t put a damper on Polk’s party and Worth gave me my first official ribbon cutting (without the ribbon). I always enjoy meeting with our partners, staff and council members. At Annual Conference I asked you to invite me out, and I thank you for taking me up on it. Linda Brinkmeyer makes sure everything fits on my dance card, so keep those invitations coming.

Over my 25 years with ISU Extension and Outreach I have visited many of the county offices for meetings and discussions with producers. My wife and I also visited each office over a three year period and have a picture with our motorcycle in front of each ISU Extension and Outreach XXXXXXX County sign. Check out our quest on our Facebook page. We are the Fallen Clovers Chapter. (Disclaimer: This is a private Facebook page, not an official ISU Extension and Outreach page.)

Never forget that our county extension councils enable us to do great things. Did you know?

  • Iowa has had elected county extension councils since the 1955 County Agricultural Extension Law.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association helps our councils have a greater impact and voice for issues being addressed by local and state government.
  • The Extension Council Training Academy offers individual and group training to increase council members’ knowledge and effectiveness.
  • Through the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program, county extension councils are investing in new research with Iowa State. For example, the Calhoun County Extension Council is partnering on a project to test how a virtual singing group intervention could be replicated across the state to help Iowans with Parkinson’s disease.

This year Bob Dodds and Cathann Kress started videotaping “Conversations with Council Members.” Bob and I plan to continue these quarterly updates for council members on new products, announcements and upcoming events. With the continuing partnership of our county extension councils, together we can achieve what we all want: a strong Iowa.

Congratulations to our Extension and Outreach colleagues on receiving University Awards.

  • Donna Donald, Human Sciences: ISU Award for Distinguished Service in Extension
  • Russ Euken, ANR: ISU R.K. Bliss Extension Award
  • Bailey Hanson, CED: ISU Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice

Be sure to congratulate them on their recognition and contribution to what makes our organization great.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Acting Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Happy ISU Extension and Outreach Week!

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 17, 2017

Happy ISU Extension and Outreach Week! This year we’re sharing our land grant legacy – of the land, the people, and their stories. It’s the foundation that empowers us, each and every day, to provide education and build partnerships for a strong Iowa. Did you know?

  • Iowa State University is NOT built upon the original land that was granted from the Morrill Act.
  • Our actual land grant includes more than 200,000 acres – in western Iowa.
  • The federal government granted this land to our state so it could be leased or sold to fund a university for Iowans.

We have been identifying the original land grant parcels and the current landowners. However, we want to help all Iowans connect with the legacy that helped to build Iowa State University and paved the way for ISU Extension and Outreach.

The Morrill Act of 1862 provided the grant of land as a funding mechanism for what became the Land Grant Universities. The national Smith-Lever Cooperative Extension Act signed May 8,1914 established a new cooperative relationship between states and the federal government, creating the national Extension System. By that time Iowa’s extension service was eight years old and relationships between counties and what was then Iowa State College were already forming. Several counties already have celebrated their centennial and 21 counties will hit the 100 year mark this year. So, happy ISU Extension and Outreach Week! Take a moment to appreciate the heritage of our great organization and look around at the history that we are making today.

I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it. ISU Extension and Outreach is strong because we are talented people working together – campus and county; faculty, staff and council members. Our success is because of “we.” We find comprehensive solutions from across programs and disciplines to educate and serve Iowans. We help each other to be successful by sharing information, lending a hand or being a sounding board. The communication and camaraderie make us stronger as we care for our organization and our colleagues. We all can be proud to be part of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach team. Thank you for your dedication and service to Iowans.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Acting Vice President for Extension and Outreach

P.S. Because so many people decided to “Give mine to EIE” during Annual Conference, we raised $3,363 in one day – a 42 percent increase over last year’s total. Thank you to everyone who contributed or pledged their support for Excellence in Extension. You’ll be hearing more about this campaign that encourages us to invest in ourselves as extension professionals.

From our 2016 Annual Report

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 10, 2017

In my first few days as acting vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach, I have found myself thinking of Garrison Keillor’s opening line to his monologue: “Well it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” While it may have been quiet for the regulars working under the green dome, to a newbie it sure seemed hectic. I moved into 2150 Beardshear on Saturday, April 1, and haven’t seen much of the office since. I am finishing a few things in my ANR position and sorting emails in the appropriate direction, all while getting up to speed about my new role on the ISU Extension and Outreach team.

Some of the things I’ve learned are from the 2016 Annual Report for ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • More than 1 million people directly benefit from our programs each year. That’s one in three Iowans.
  • About 100,000 4-H youth are building skills for college and career readiness. That’s nearly 20 percent of all Iowa K-12 youth.
  • We support online courses for 50,000 users. They’d nearly fill Jack Trice Stadium – if, of course, they were here rather than online.
  • More than 16,000 volunteers partner with us – more than a sell-out crowd at Hilton Coliseum.
  • We reach more than 4 million with our digital presence. That’s four times the number of direct contacts.

We didn’t achieve these big wins on our own. Our 900 locally elected extension council members are right there with us, working for a strong Iowa. Their partnership is essential to our 99 county campus.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind this week:

  • Performance reviews for 2016 must be completed by April 15, 2017.
  • Proposals are due April 17 for innovation and sustainability projects. We’ll be awarding four grants of $2,500 each. Download the RFP from the See You There blog.
  • The Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum will be coming to a county near you sometime in the next three years. Watch our video about the museum’s stop at annual conference, and learn how we’ll be working with the State Historical Society of Iowa on this project.

Well, one week down, not that I’m counting. I’m in this for as long of a haul as necessary. Early reports indicate I haven’t dropped the ball so far, and that’s thanks to all of you. Because in ISU Extension and Outreach, we all keep each other at the top of our game.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Acting Vice President for Extension and Outreach

A priceless heirloom

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 3, 2017

Feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities to prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it: Sounds like a plan for a strong Iowa. As I take on this new role as acting vice president for extension and outreach, I am thankful for the leadership and stewardship of Dr. Cathann Kress. She is leaving our organization in a strong position for what is ahead. And as I said at Annual Conference, I will try not to screw it up. I feel like I have been handed a priceless heirloom and told not to drop it.

Jay Harmon has been named interim director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and interim associate dean for extension and outreach programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During the interim, ANR will be taking a team approach to cover programs that I gave leadership to over the past seven years.

As recent rains prove, sometimes there are dark clouds on the horizon. However, our strong position and bright future will help us navigate the rough weather, as we turn into the wind to stay on course.

  • We face the uncertainty of a new Iowa State University president. We know Ben Allen and, more important, he knows Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach. I am confident that we can work with him in the interim. However, we will need strong representation on the search committee for our new president. I will be asking some of you to participate.
  • The press release announcing my appointment mentioned a national search for a permanent vice president for extension and outreach “in the coming months.” I don’t know the impact President Leath’s departure may have on the timing. You may have me around for a while. I made a firm commitment to be flexible on my interim appointment and to do what is best for ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • There’s uncertainty at the federal level. The Administration’s Budget Blue Print called for a 21 percent reduction in USDA, but didn’t mention the land-grant universities or SNAP-Ed specifically. Longer-term, discussions have started on the new Farm Bill that will set the policy direction for the next five years and beyond. The Farm Bill is not just for farmers, as it sets direction for nutrition, conservation, commodity risk management and other policy, and specifically addresses research and extension programs.
  • There is less uncertainty at the state level, and that is good news. The bad news is that budgets will be tighter and likely will remain so for the next two to three years, while the economy recovers and the rainy day fund is replenished.

Moving forward, it will be like drinking from a fire hose as I learn more about our organization, but here is my promise to you. I will listen and learn. I plan to meet with program directors to learn about their programs and people. I will consult with our partners, including councils, colleges, agencies and NGOs to understand how we work together today and in the future. I will engage with stakeholders, to better appreciate their needs and what they expect from us.

I have an open door policy, open inbox and open phone for you – the staff, faculty and county councils of ISU Extension and Outreach. Invite me out. I would like to meet with you and your stakeholders. Together with the leadership team, I will work to maintain your trust and will share information throughout the process.

We are going into this stretch of rough weather without a map, but we do have a compass to help us stay on course.  That compass is our mission and vision, our core values and our culture.  It is who we are.  We are one system. We are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach! I look forward to working with you as acting and then interim vice president. Together we will keep our organization on course toward a bright future.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Acting Vice President for Extension and Outreach