Engaging all Iowans

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 26, 2018

Last week I sent you all a special message about and a link to our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some thoughts related to each of the three goals in the plan. I hope you’ll take some time to read the plan, consider how your own role aligns with the goals and strategies, and share your thoughts with your colleagues. Having a strategic plan doesn’t mean much if it’s only a link on a website or a downloaded and forgotten PDF. Each of us needs to take action if we’re going to achieve our goals.

The first goal in our strategic plan is to engage all Iowans with access to research-based education and information. ISU Extension and Outreach has been working with and educating Iowans since our very beginning, more than 100 years ago. However, we didn’t focus on engagement until more recently. Did you know?

  • The term “engagement” started gaining traction in the land-grant community in the 1990s, and in 1999, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities issued its report, “Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution.” (Martin Jischke, Iowa State’s president at the time, was a member of the commission.)
  • The Kellogg Commission challenged our institutions to go beyond outreach and service and strive for engagement — and become more involved with our communities, broadly defined. We needed to ditch the idea that we were all-knowing experts and, instead, commit to listening, sharing and reciprocity. Engagement, the commission said, is a two-way street, with partners who respect each other for what each one brings to the table.
  • An engaged institution responds to the needs of learners. We put our knowledge and expertise to work on the issues facing the communities we serve.

Our Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan sets five strategies for reaching our engagement goal: creating educational experiences, providing research-based information, forming partnerships, gathering feedback and collaborating across the university. (See the plan for the explanations.) When Iowans are engaged with us, they are fully involved in our vision and mission as we work together to solve today’s problems and prepare for a thriving future. That’s how we will build a strong Iowa — engaged and in partnership with all Iowans.

A couple more notes

  • Our annual conference is March 26. Registration is open. Come to learn, take part in a service project and network with a purpose.
  • Annual conference will conclude with our ISU Extension and Outreach Awards Ceremony in Benton Auditorium followed by a reception in the Scheman Building second floor lobby. ISU Extension and Outreach Awards and Epsilon Sigma Phi Awards will be presented, our 2017 University Provost Award recipients will be recognized and the 2018 Excellence in Extension grant recipients will be announced. This is a great opportunity to celebrate our people.

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

Sharing with our stakeholders

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 19, 2018

Who are our stakeholders? They are the people who have an interest or a share in what we do. Maybe they’ve made an investment in ISU Extension and Outreach, whether in time or money. They may have a personal or emotional concern related to our work. They may feel connected to Iowa State for any number of reasons. Whatever the case, they have a stake in our impact and outcomes. It makes good sense to keep them informed about our work.

For the public, telling our story is a way to shed the title of ISU Extension and Outreach being the “best kept secret.” Telling our story to taxpayers and the elected officials who allocate precious public resources shows them their return on investment. We’re lucky to have multiple opportunities to keep them up to date. Did you know?

  • Our extension districts produce annual stakeholder reports that describe program successes in food and the environment, health and well-being, economic development and K-12 youth outreach. They are available online for download and although they look nice, the reports themselves aren’t what is most important. What really matters are the conversations that these reports can spark. If we want decision makers to understand what we do, we have to show them and tell them. At the county level, stakeholder reports often are the right tool for the job.
  • On Feb. 26, several extension professionals will be in Des Moines for ISU Day at the Capitol. It’s an annual opportunity to meet face-to-face with our state legislators to showcase the impact Iowa State has on students, communities, businesses and Iowans across the state. ISU Extension and Outreach is a big part of this conversation. We’ll be sharing highlights from our 2017 annual report.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association’s annual Legislative Day is Feb. 28. IECA members will be meeting with state legislators to share extension impacts. They also will be modeling public leadership to the 4-H’ers participating in IECA’s 4-H Public Leadership Experience. Senior 4-H’ers from each county will have the opportunity to meet with legislators, tour the capitol, and learn about the legislative process and the bearing it has on ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • In March, our Iowa delegates to the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) will head to Washington, D.C., to share Iowa State’s story with Congress. Kevin Ross (Underwood), Donald Latham (Alexander), Sally Stutsman (Riverside), and Robert Petrzelka (Mt. Pleasant) represent ISU Extension and Outreach as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in this national grassroots organization. CARET advocates for greater national support and understanding of the land-grant university system’s food and agricultural research, extension, and teaching programs that enhance the quality of life for all people.

While these are purposeful discussions with specific stakeholders, do not be bashful about telling our story – your story – every chance you get. We strive to serve all Iowans. A key to our success is making sure people know about ISU Extension and Outreach, and how we are working to build a strong Iowa.

One more thing: Iowa State is rolling out Okta, a new application. (It reminds me of the letters left at the end of a Scrabble game.) Okta is going to change the look and feel of the login page when you sign into MyExtension, Office 365, CyBox and other Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach resources. Okta also gives you the ability to add (at a later date) something called multi-factor authentication to your account. Multi-factor authentication adds protection to your account by requiring a second verification in addition to your password. This second verification can be an app on your phone, a code sent via text message, a voice call or a small physical device called a Yubikey.

The look and feel portion of Okta will be rolling out on March 1. Currently, multi-factor authentication is optional and can be turned on in the settings in Okta. For more information, plan to attend a webinar with Deb Coates, EIT manager, on Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. To log in, go to https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/eit.

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

If not research, then what?

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 12, 2018

ISU Extension and Outreach engages all Iowans in research, education, and extension experiences to address real-life challenges and prepare for a thriving future. That’s how we advance our land-grant mission. We are committed to helping Iowans build their capacity to better their lives and make sound decisions. If our work is not based on research and evidence, then what is it based on? Rumor? Politics? Whichever way the wind blows? Let’s hope not. Our integrity is in our research. That is why we work together with the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station and other researchers to plan, discover and deliver science-based knowledge for the benefit of Iowans. Did you know?

  • The Experiment Station was founded at Iowa State in 1888, and soon began conducting research, advancing science and addressing the needs of Iowans.
  • The Experiment Station isn’t a physical place. It’s not a building and it’s not a farm. It is a research program involving hundreds of people and partners, along with extension connections reaching Iowans in every county.
  • Our combined plan of work addresses community and economic development, expanding human potential, food security, health and well-being, natural resources and environmental stewardship, sustainable and renewable energy, and youth development.

The leadership team has been compiling the data for our Combined Research and Extension Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results, also known as the federal report. We will be submitting it to USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture in a few weeks. This is another way we use the information you report to us. We’re sharing the value and impact of ISU Extension and Outreach with our federal partners, funders and decision makers.

A few more notes

  • Make sure to review the February program update from the leadership team.
  • Register now for annual conference. The March 26 event includes acts of service and the annual awards ceremony and reception. Come to learn, network with a purpose and celebrate.
  • I want to give a shout out to the ISU Extension and Outreach county offices that will host the Farmers Market Nutrition Program training for farmers so they can become certified to accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks. In 2017, WIC recipients in Iowa redeemed $383,000 and seniors redeemed $477,000 in these checks. These funds are spent only at farmers markets and with local farmers for locally grown fruits and vegetables. Without this program, many of these shoppers likely would not have gone to the farmers market or purchased local fresh produce. In addition, given this opportunity to buy local, they may have spent more on fruits and vegetables than the combined $860,000 from the program. 2018 marks the first time our county offices will offer training for this program that helps local farmers and farmers markets, as well as the young families and seniors who participate.

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

February 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • The ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program distributed 15 mini-grants courtesy of Iowa State University’s SNAP-Education. The mini-grants were awarded to 15 counties and six demonstration gardens at Iowa State research farms as part of the Growing Together initiative. More than 231 Master Gardeners were involved in the projects. Together they were able to grow 74,841 pounds of produce that was donated to 75 food pantries and food banks, producing nearly 225,000 servings of fruits and vegetables to Iowans with low income.
  • Master Gardener volunteers — 1,923 of them to be exact – donated 115,055 hours to grow food, fight food insecurity and help beautify the state of Iowa throughout 2017. That equals 60 hours worked per volunteer, significantly more than the 20 hours Master Gardener volunteers are required to complete each year. The volunteer time Master Gardeners spent is the equivalent of more than $2.7 million. The volunteers completed a variety of projects, such as growing fresh produce for food pantries, helping three other states launch similar programs to fight food insecurity, and planting milkweed plugs and other plants that attract pollinators.
  • Social media continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole and the trend holds true in Iowa. Many producers are looking for a fast, easy way to collect and share information with the agriculture community and ANR specialists and teams have joined the conversation. The ANR Social Media Directory captures 127 social media accounts across seven social media platforms posting on behalf of ANR. To date, those ANR social media accounts reach 70,895 followers and subscribers, up 8,058 in the last six months. Notably, Twitter is the most influential platform with 53,906 followers looking for ANR information, followed by Facebook with 13,205 page likes. ANR continues to impact and influence the agriculture and natural resources industry in Iowa.

Community and Economic Development

  • Community and Economic Development is now offering the Marketing Hometown America program that has been successfully used by Cooperative Extension programs in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to help communities home in on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business. Monona and Harrison counties currently are participating in the first round of Marketing Hometown America in Iowa.
  • CED staff will be conducting Navigating Difference© training workshops for West Des Moines department heads/supervisors on Feb. 13 and 27. Ross Wilburn will be teaching Navigating Difference© Module 1 with Ames employees on Feb. 14, 15 and 20.

Human Sciences

  • Nature Explore® is a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. It focuses on increasing and enhancing children and families’ access to nature-based experiences to foster a sense of wonder and overall well-being. Opportunities with Nature Explore® include early childhood professional development workshops, downloadable family support materials, nature-based resources and materials, and outdoor classroom certification. In January 2017, ISU Extension and Outreach and other partners from six counties in Northeast Iowa (Howard, Winneshiek, Allamakee, Chickasaw, Fayette and Clayton) came together to discuss the potential to bring Nature Explore® to local communities. The project is gaining momentum, additional partners and support. Three of the county extension councils have committed dollars to the program, and the Northeast Iowa Funders Network awarded the team a two-year grant of $15,000. This project demonstrates the success of a committed effort for program sustainability.
  • Although program evaluation is ongoing, initial results for the Essentials Online Child Care Preservice Program demonstrate impact. Participants were asked what they liked most about the program. Of the 1,855 who responded, 81 percent liked having the ability to stop and come back and complete a lesson; 73 percent liked having 24/7 access; 67 percent liked being able to retake a quiz; and 60 percent liked being able to print a certificate upon completing the course. Participants also were asked what improvements they would make to the training. Responses included: “Nothing! I really enjoyed the layout and easy access of this course and would take it again if necessary.” “This course was a very great way of teaching and understanding children and my duties as a provider.” “I’ve learned so much and I am excited about using these tools and knowledge I have gained to make my daycare much more safe, enjoyable and run smoother.”
  • Lesia Oesterreich, an extension state specialist in family life and adjunct assistant professor in human development and family studies, is representing Iowa State University and the state of Iowa on the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance Peer Learning Team. The goals are to explore effective technical assistance systems in Quality Rating Improvement systems and develop state specific goals for sustainability.
  • Human sciences staff Christine Hradek, Justine Hoover and Jody Gatewood delivered a nationwide webcast Jan. 23, 2018, for the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior. They focused on “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” online resources as a companion to nutrition education initiatives.

4-H Youth Development

  • 4-H is developing one-day educational summer programs that can be implemented in any county. Programs can be combined to serve youth in afterschool or in-school activities, camps, clubs/learning communities or events. These programs include: See the Light, Play with the Shadows (Grades 4-8); Building Blocks of Entrepreneurship (Grades 6-8); Get in on the Act! (Grades 4-8); Expand My World – Your Passport to Adventure! (youth who have completed Grades K-3); The Science of BBQ (Grades 4-8); Monarchs on the Move (Grades 4-8); and Quest to Be Your Best (Grades 4-8).
  • Iowa 4-H is looking to invest around $100,000 in ag educational product development in 2018. 4-H held a product development advisory meeting, bringing together 4-H staff, ANR faculty and staff, and several ag industry representatives; then followed up with surveys of youth and others. As a result, some new projects under development include a challenge in which youth work in groups with experts to solve an agricultural issue, an ag literacy educational module about where food comes from, lessons using virtual reality to educate youth on ag topics, and lessons on drones and biotechnology.
  • Camera Corps enrollment has increased to 250 team members for 2017-2018, representing 86 counties. This is a 49 percent increase in enrollment over last year.

County budget time

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 5, 2018

Rumor has it that knowledgeable groundhogs saw their shadows on Friday. So that must mean there are six more weeks until county budgets are due. Each year at about this time all 100 of our county agricultural extension districts are working to complete their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. They have to meet requirements for salaries, travel, rent, office supplies, programming and other educational services. Did you know?

  • Counties begin preparing their budgets in the fall as early as October, but more often in November or December. Initial budgets are prepared using our universal extension accounting system, Microsoft GP.
  • Eventually, detailed budgets are rolled into summary form and must be entered into the Iowa Department of Management’s web-based system, typically in December. The IDOM site provides transparency so the public can easily view their county’s budget plan and tax request.
  • At their January organizational meeting, each county extension council approves the new fiscal year’s budget, directs publishing in the newspaper and sets the date for a public hearing, usually in February or early March.
  • When approved, the budget is marked approved in the IDOM website and filed with the county auditor by March 15.

But the work’s not over yet. At the same time they’re finishing the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, councils also are reviewing the current year’s budget and actual expenditures. If it looks like their expenditures will be higher than originally budgeted, they have to amend the budget, which has to be completed before May 31. Then they have to publish their annual report in the summer and begin an audit in the fall, and before you know it, it’s time to start working on the next year’s budget. We’re lucky to have 900 dedicated county extension council members making sure the county budget process runs smoothly throughout the state, all year long.

Save the date: Our ISU Extension and Outreach annual conference is March 26 in Ames and registration will open this week. I am really excited about this year’s conference as it focuses on two things that speak to us as extension professionals: service to others and networking with a purpose. We will hear from Michelle Book, president and CEO of Food Bank of Iowa, and get hands-on service with Meals from the Heartland. You will also have ample time to network with colleagues and learn about the different roles ISU Extension and Outreach plays in feeding people.

The theme of annual conference is WE > ME. For those who have forgotten junior high math, it means “we are greater than me.” As ISU Extension and Outreach, we are stronger, smarter and better together. We are a system of professionals with different training and skills, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, you are connected to colleagues who do. We provide a comprehensive approach to finding solutions to both challenges and opportunities for a strong Iowa. I look forward to seeing you March 26.

One final reminder: Nominations for ISU Extension and Outreach Awards are due at noon, Feb. 9.

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

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