An odyssey of logistics

John Lawrence’s message from May 22, 2018

When people hear the word “odyssey,” some may remember an ancient Greek poem while others look forward to a modern minivan. However, for more than 8,500 competitors coming to Ames this week, only one odyssey matters: the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. These young people have worked in teams all year solving open-ended problems that have more than one solution. Now they will present their creative solutions as they compete with other teams from throughout the U.S. and more than 20 other countries. Did you know?

  • About 850 teams of students will participate in the 2018 World Finals, called the largest creative problem-solving program in the world. This international educational program is designed for students from kindergarten through college. I’ll welcome them, their coaches, judges and spectators (more than 15,000 people all told) to Iowa State during the opening ceremony in Hilton Coliseum Wednesday night.
  • In addition to competition, this odyssey includes daily creativity festivals, NASA educational activities, a parade and awards.
  • The May 23-26 event is the 39th World Finals and this is the 10th time that Iowa State University and the Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau have hosted the competition. The local organizing committee includes more than 30 people, representing staff from the bureau and across campus.
  • There’s a reason this international event keeps coming back to Ames. The Iowa State/Ames partnership and our Conference Planning and Management team handle the logistics and make sure it all runs smoothly. They find appropriate campus locations for three days of simultaneous competitions in five categories, each with three or four age divisions. They coordinate transportation, housing, dining and options for other things these visitors can do while in town. They also deal with health and safety concerns.

An odyssey can involve aimless wandering and hardship. However, it also can be a fun-filled adventure packed with notable experiences. That’s what Conference Planning and Management creates, not only for Odyssey of the Mind, but also for every other competition, conference, workshop, meeting and event that the team handles throughout the year.

One more thing: I participated in the Navigating Difference workshop series last week. I highly recommend this learning opportunity for anyone who wants to better understand others with a different world view. That may involve differences in thought, age, race, culture or other dimensions of diversity. Our strategic plan identifies reaching all Iowans and particularly underserved communities with ISU Extension and Outreach programming. Navigating Difference helps improve our cultural competency by meeting us where we are and preparing us to be better listeners, communicators and educators. Professional Development will offer the workshop series again in June (Adair County) and in the fall (in Marshall, Sioux and Delaware counties). Register online. For more information, contact Gayle Coon, our Navigating Difference program coordinator, at

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

And the nominees are …

John Lawrence’s message from May 15, 2018

In ISU Extension and Outreach, we believe in people and their right to make their own decisions, and we believe that education is the key to helping people help themselves. Some of us believe these things because we are extension professionals; however, our county extension council members are believers too. 2018 is an extension council election year, so we are looking for a few more people in every county who are willing to commit to these beliefs.

Each county extension district will elect five council members in November, and each person will serve a four-year term. If a council has appointed someone to complete the unexpired term of a council member, then that position also will be up for election this year. Did you know?

  • As required by Iowa law, each council will be appointing a nominating committee. These folks will be seeking candidates who have the talent, skills and energy to help determine how ISU Extension and Outreach can make a difference in their county.
  • Potential candidates should reflect their county’s population. They shouldn’t all be from the same town, and they should have diverse backgrounds and interests. That way they’ll be better able to connect Iowa State resources with everyone in the county, including under-represented groups and organizations.
  • Whenever possible, committees should nominate enough candidates to ensure that voters have a choice, which this year means nominating five or more candidates.

All of us can help these county nominating committees find good candidates. Think about people you know and work with in your communities. What could they bring to the table as county extension council members? Show them this new video, direct them to this webpage with more information and encourage them to contact their county extension office.

More notes

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

The ships that 4-H builds

John Lawrence’s message from May 7, 2018

Last week I met with our youth program specialists during their training session on campus. In our short time together, we covered the usual organizational topics, budget updates, my plans for a summer of centennials, visiting sessions around the state and the internal communication committee.

I also shared a little extension history from R.K. Bliss, as I like to do from time to time. In 1952, R.K. compiled and edited “The Spirit and Philosophy of Extension Work.” The book is a collection of significant extension papers, including some written by R.K. himself. In one, he focused on “Ships That 4-H Club Work Builds.” He wrote about workmanship, fellowship, acquaintanceship, friendship, sportsmanship, partnership, salesmanship, leadership, stewardship and citizenship. Workmanship was achieved “through better methods of farming and homemaking.” The remaining ships, as R.K. wrote, “have to do principally with getting along with other people. Learning to live happily as families and with neighbors is one of life’s most important achievements. 4-H Club work is training youth not only how to make a living, but also how to live more successfully.”

Today 4-H is building ships not only through club work, but also through all our youth development programs as we invest in Iowa youth. We call it empowering youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences. Did you know?

  • 4-H experiences are designed to strengthen a young person’s sense of belonging, generosity, independence and mastery.
  • 4-H’s priority areas are STEM, healthy living, leadership and civic engagement, and communication and the arts. These areas fully align with Iowa State University, ISU Extension and Outreach, and 4-H National Headquarters (USDA/NIFA).
  • Local dollars are leveraged by state, federal and grant dollars. In fiscal year 2016-2017, the state 4-H office brought in over $1.25 million in grants and contracts to support youth across Iowa. These funds helped support lower individual costs for youth and their families; lower county costs for high quality educational products and programs; development of new research-based educational products and programs; research and evaluation; and adoption of new technology.

Each year we reach about 100,000 Iowa youth through 4-H Youth Development. (Want the numbers for your county? Download 4-H Data for Decision Makers.) We build skills in Iowa youth to improve their college and career readiness, address achievement or opportunity gaps, and encourage youth to use their skills to shape Iowa’s future. Or, as R.K. said, we help youth learn to make a living and live more successfully.

Congratulations to our extension colleagues who will be receiving university awards, including:

  • R.K. Bliss Extension Award, Jerry Chizek, Region 7 director
  • Award for Distinguished Service in Extension, Beth Doran, beef field specialist
  • Award for Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice, Alison Robertson, professor and extension field pathologist
  • Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice, Lee Schulz, assistant professor and extension economist
  • Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award, Sara Sprouse, human sciences specialist
  • Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa, CED Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Team – Lisa Bates, Himar Hernandez, Victor Oyervides, Jill Sokness, Scott Timm and Jon Wolseth
  • Award for Early Achievement in Teaching, Christopher Currey, assistant professor of horticulture
  • International Service Award, Manjit Misra, director, Seed Science Center

One more note: Make sure to review the May program update from the leadership team.

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

May 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • Contestants from Boone, Adair and Kossuth counties earned championships during the inaugural 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl held at Iowa State in March. A quiz bowl round consists of 28 questions relating to the beef, goat, sheep and swine industries, as well as current event questions. Teams competed in a double-elimination style contest, with a senior division for youth ages 14-19 and a mixed division for teams with youth of all ages. This is the first year that Iowa 4-H has hosted the event. The winning senior team will represent Iowa at the National 4-H contest held during AKSARBEN this fall in Grand Island, Neb.
  • Nearly 140 youth attended the Maize Retreat, April 13-15 at Clover Woods. This culturally based youth leadership accelerator offers youth the opportunity to experience 4-H programs through a Latino and Native American perspective. Iowa 4-H received positive feedback from both youth and chaperones about the quality of the workshops they attended.
  • Twenty school staff from five schools in Sioux City and Ida County participated in the School Garden 101 training in Sioux City during February and March. During the training, Brenda Welch, 4-H program specialist, introduced the teachers to the Connecting Learning and Living curriculum available through Iowa 4-H Youth Development. She also offered tips for tweaking the lessons to reach more of the Iowa Core Standards.
  • Nearly 200 high school aged youth attended the Northwest Iowa GRiT conferences at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and Northwestern College in Orange City. GRiT stands for Getting Real Together through leadership and is a partnership of 4-H Youth Development, Human Sciences, and the local colleges. The conference goals are to make connections with underrepresented populations and help them develop leadership skills, as well as show them opportunities for future personal development through 4-H and post-secondary learning. The youth participated in leadership challenges, toured the campus and experienced college-classroom learning from college faculty in STEM, healthy living, leadership and civic engagement, communication and the arts. They also heard a keynote about overcoming challenges and made a showcase video about their day.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Trade issues have emerged between the United States and China, with tariffs already impacting pork exports from Iowa. There is concern that an escalation of tariffs between the two countries could affect soybean exports, as well. These concerns, as well as a detailed look at previous Chinese responses to U.S. tariffs, are contained in a policy brief from the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. China typically responds to U.S. tariffs by posting tariffs of their own against goods they can easily purchase from another country or substitute with another product.
  • Mammals of Iowa” is available from the Extension Store. This first-of-its-kind, comprehensive field guide is a collaborative project between ISU Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The 132-page booklet contains full species accounts for 57 mammal species found in Iowa, as well as supplemental material about extirpated or rare species, living alongside mammals, and scaled comparisons highlighting the wide variety of shapes and sizes of the state’s mammals. Each species account features photos, range maps that highlight county distributions in the state, and information on the identification, habitats, breeding behavior and diets of each species.
  • Improving water quality – through practices such as wetlands, woodchip bioreactors, controlled drainage, saturated buffers, reduced drainage intensity and winter forage or cover crops – was discussed during a water quality improvement workshop held in Fort Dodge. Twenty-four participants attended the workshop, learning about the design of water quality improvement practices and gaining information essential for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2018 Community Visioning Program assessment process is completed and local steering committees are reviewing the assessment data provided by the Iowa State research team. In addition, steering committees will meet with local transportation officials. In May, assessment reviews will be conducted in Glidden, Decorah, Peterson, Plymouth, Graettinger and Forest City. Glidden, Forest City and Plymouth also will meet with transportation officials. In addition, Glidden, Decorah and Coon Rapids will be conducting design workshops. The public may attend these workshops and provide input on preliminary transportation enhancement goals.
  • CED specialists Jill Sokness, Brian Perry and Jon Wolseth will be presenting Leading Communities in Storm Lake on Thursdays in May. This CED leadership program is made possible in part by a VPEO initiative and will feature the creation of an additional module addressing immigrant social capital.
  • CED is now offering Marketing Hometown America to help communities focus on what people are looking for when they choose a place to live and do business. On May 14, Jane Goeken will be in Primghar to discuss the program with O’Brien County Extension.
  • On May 29, Jane Goeken and Diane Van Wyngarden will be in Riceville teaching a Customer Service Workshop. These workshops are two-hour, interactive classes. The first half of the class focuses on community-level tourism as a form of economic development. The second half focuses on skills in customer service, such as complaint resolution, dealing with negative online reviews and providing exceptional customer service.

Human Sciences

  • Cindy Fletcher, professor and resource management extension state specialist, in partnership with the State Library of Iowa and with support from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, launched the first phase of financial capability workshops. The blended course, “Small Change: Building Financial Security,” offers an initial face-to-face workshop followed by game-based online modules. Library staff will complete the course with a webinar in May. The course will be offered to two other targeted groups of public employees over the next year: K-12 employees, and municipal and county employees.
  • The ServSafe® Training Grant from Department of Human Services was renewed. This is the sixth year of the partnership. Beginning in July, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach will have scholarships for 50 child care providers from facilities working on or toward Quality Rating Scales to attend the class and become Certified Food Protection Managers. The anticipated impact is lowering the risk of children acquiring a foodborne illness. Cathy Strohbehn, extension specialist and adjunct professor, and Barb Fuller, human sciences specialist in nutrition and wellness, are co-PIs on the grant.
  • In summer 2016, Nevada Extension contacted Human Sciences Extension and Outreach to assess interest in working on a multi-state, early-childhood literacy research project. Human sciences specialists piloted a four-session series with 15 early childhood professionals from Jasper, Montgomery, Taylor and Union counties in 2017. Based on pre-post knowledge outcomes, participants with less education, those with fewer years of experience, and family child care providers learned more about oral language than did other participants. Those with less education and family child care providers learned more about phonological awareness. Participants who taught preschoolers or mixed age groups learned more about dialogic reading. The project work continues with interviews and additional assessment of the multi-state results. The overall goal is to train and coach teachers to implement strong literacy practices in the early childhood classroom to enhance young children’s language and literacy skills.
  • Katy Moscoso and Christine Hradek, with “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy,” attended the National Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Conference. Moscoso delivered two sessions on using “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” as a technology companion during direct education sessions with clients.

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