Accelerating leadership

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 24, 2018

Sometimes we need to accelerate to get where we want to go. This is true when driving down a highway, but it’s also true in ISU Extension and Outreach when we’re trying to connect with Iowans we haven’t yet reached. For three years now, 4-H has been offering culturally based youth leadership accelerators to young people who haven’t experienced our youth development programs. It’s an academic way of saying we’re placing these kids on the fast track – building skills to improve their college and career readiness, addressing achievement or opportunity gaps, and encouraging them to use their skills to shape Iowa’s future. Did you know?

  • Culturally based youth leadership accelerators use cultural strengths to introduce youth to 4-H and Iowa State. The Ujima and AAPI Retreat, Sept. 28-30 on campus and at Clover Woods, provides youth in grades 8-12 the opportunity to experience the university and explore 4-H healthy living, STEM, civic engagement, leadership, and communication and the arts programs through an African, Asian and Asian/African-American perspective.
  • The Maize Retreat, offered in the spring, celebrates Latino and Native American cultures through keynote speakers, cultural entertainment, educational workshops and meeting other youth from across Iowa.
  • Youth attend as a group from their county, so they register, travel and participate together. After they return home, they can apply what they’ve learned together, increasing the likelihood that they’ll continue in their county 4-H program.
  • Youth in grades 8-12 from any background are welcome to participate in 4-H leadership accelerators.

Data from the first three years show that these accelerators have brought 686 young leaders of color into Iowa 4-H. In some cases, the youth have joined existing 4-H clubs and learning communities. Many more have worked with volunteers to develop new culturally based clubs and participate in other state 4-H leadership opportunities, including State 4-H Council and National 4-H Conference. Accelerator graduates also have helped lead statewide programming.

One in five K-12 youth in Iowa is of color and our 4-H membership should mirror this trend. We will continue to strengthen our core of clubs, curriculum and volunteers, and we will continue to actively recruit new participants. We are committed to being inclusive and welcoming, and to fulfilling the national 4-H goal of having members, volunteers and staff who reflect Iowa’s population.

More notes

  • The Internal Communications Task Force met Sept. 17 and the executive summary from the meeting is posted on Cybox.
  • I’m visiting two regions this week: Sept. 25, Region 15, and Sept. 26, Region 16.
  • The CALS P&S Council is hosting an ice cream social Oct. 4, 1:30-3 p.m. in the Kildee Hall Pavilion. Meet and greet the council representatives and share comments and concerns. RSVP so they can stock enough Dairy Science Club ice cream.

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

For better communication

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 17, 2018

Sometimes we have trouble communicating with each other in our complex organization, and the challenge cuts across all our programs. That’s why in spring 2018 I appointed an internal communications task force, led by Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn, to determine how we could improve communication within all of ISU Extension and Outreach.

The task force members – Deb and Ross along with Ann Torbert, Terry Torneten, Alex Merk, Andrea Nelson, Ben Pullen and Mary Giese – began their work without preconceived notions of the outcome. Instead, this group of our colleagues has been focused on listening. They want to develop strategies we can implement within our system to help us all do a better job of carrying out our mission. Did you know?

  • They are gathering information from across our system on barriers that impede, as well as ways to improve, our internal communication.
  • They want to ensure all voices are heard.
  • They will assess, evaluate and determine the most important issues for our system to address in the short- and long-term.
  • They will provide a final report with recommendations to the leadership team.

We all have a role in this effort. The task force is offering four ways for us to provide our feedback.

  1. Anyone in our system may send comments to from now until Oct. 29.
  2. Task force members will facilitate four community conversations across the state on Sept. 25, Sept. 28, Oct. 3 and Oct. 8. If you would like to participate in a conversation, please register at Six to 12 individuals may participate per session and these conversations will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If more than 12 people would like to participate at any one location, the task force will create a waiting list and determine whether another session can be offered.
  3. Each task force member has set aside one day to be available to meet by phone, Zoom or in-person with anyone in our system who would like to engage in an individual discussion. Please see the list of opportunities and contact the task force member to schedule a time to chat.
  4. Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey, which will open in early October and close Oct. 29.

Please take a few minutes and participate, in whichever way works best for you. The more people who participate, the more valuable the task force’s report and recommendations will be for our organization.

Congratulations to our extension colleagues who received university awards on Sept. 14, 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.

We also congratulate Ron Cox, director of CIRAS, who received an award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa. Many of you may know Ron, since CIRAS had been part of ISU Extension and Outreach before becoming part of the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations.

More notes

  • Wendy Wintersteen will be formally installed as president of Iowa State University Sept. 21 at Stephens Auditorium. Doors will open at 9:15 a.m. and the ceremony begins at 10:15 a.m. For those unable to attend in person, the installation will be livestreamed at
  • Congratulations to Madison County, this year’s Cy Day Friday winner. They did a good job with community engagement and social media – check their Facebook page to see for yourself.
  • I’m visiting two regions this week: Sept. 17, Region 10; and Sept. 18, Region 11.

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

Provide your feedback

Update, October 22, 2018

The Internal Communications Task Force is offering four ways to provide feedback.

Survey: Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey. The survey closes Oct. 29.

Email comments: Anyone in our system may send comments to from now until Oct. 29.

Community Conversations

Two additional conversations have been scheduled. Registration Services will soon be reopening online registration at

Nov. 5, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Room 3505, Memorial Union, Iowa State University, Ames

Nov. 9, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Hancock County Extension Office, 327 West 8th Street, Garner

Individual discussions: Contact the task force member directly to schedule a time to chat.

Oct 24: Andrea Nelson,, 515-294-8423
Oct 25: Ann Torbert,, 319-377-9839
Oct 26: Debra Sellers, co-chair,, 515-294-2312
Oct 29: Alex Merk,, 515-432-3882


Original message, September 14, 2018

The Internal Communications Task Force is offering four ways to provide feedback.

Email comments: Anyone in our system may send comments to from now until Oct. 29.

Community Conversations

Sept. 25, 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
Cherokee County
209 Centennial Drive, Suite A, Cherokee, IA 51012-2243
Facilitators: Ben Pullen and Andrea Nelson

Sept 28, 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
Keokuk County
400 220th Ave. Suite A, Sigourney, IA 52591
Facilitators: Ann Torbert and Ross Wilburn

Oct. 3, 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
Delaware County
1417 N Franklin Street, Manchester, IA 52057
Facilitators: Debra Sellers and Alex Merk

Oct 8, 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
Cass County
805 West 10th Street, Atlantic, IA 50022
Facilitators: Ann Torbert and Terry Torneten

Individual discussions: Contact the task force member directly to schedule a time to chat.

Sept 26: Ross Wilburn, co-chair,, 515-294-1354
Oct 15: Ben Pullen,, 712-262-2264
Oct 17: Terry Torneten,, 712-792-2364
Oct 24: Andrea Nelson,, 515-294-8423
Oct 25: Ann Torbert,, 319-377-9839
Oct 26: Debra Sellers, co-chair,, 515-294-2312
Oct 29: Alex Merk,, 515-432-3882

Task force member Mary Giese is not available for calls.

Survey: Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey, which will open in early October and close Oct. 29.

Becoming eAccessible

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 10, 2018

When we design for all, we increase our chances of justice for all. You might remember that statement from my January message regarding digital universal design compliance. A key component of this effort is professional development in eAccessibility, because we all need to learn how to make our digital materials accessible. We want all Iowans, including those who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities, to be able to easily navigate and understand our websites, mobile apps and electronic documents. Did you know?

  • Professional development opportunities related to eAccessibility are designed to educate extension employees on the workflow process necessary to create digitally accessible documents.
  • An upcoming workshop, “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” walks participants through a new process when working in Microsoft Office. This includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher and Outlook. Participants also experience using an electronic screen reader. This hands-on workshop will be offered face-to-face at locations across the state beginning in October and continuing through spring 2019. You can register for the workshops at
  • Extension staff who submit InDesign publications to the Extension Store meet regularly for eAccessibility updates and in October may participate in professional development workshops specific to their digital design needs.
  • Two P&S staff have been hired to help remediate existing publications on the store. John Robnett, who began working half-time in August, is focusing on remediating PDFs for 4-H and CED. Ron Nelson will start full-time Sept. 13 and focus on remediating ANR publications. Human Sciences is taking another approach to handle existing publications.
  • Watch this video from Ross Wilburn, our diversity adviser, to learn more about ISU Extension and Outreach’s commitment to accessibility.

For more information on our eAccessibility initiative, contact Robin Ertz in Professional Development, Kristi Elmore in Extension IT or Chris Johnsen with the Extension Store.

More notes

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

September 2018 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

4-H Youth Development

  • Overall, 5,079 unique 4-H exhibitors entered 13,560 entries at the 2018 Iowa State Fair. That means nearly 25 percent of grade-eligible community club members exhibited at State Fair, showcasing 4-H youth outputs of our long-term educational experiences. Other participation numbers include: 8,580 livestock and horticulture entries from 2,096 non-duplicated exhibitors; 121 Awardrobe participants representing 71 counties; 1,200 communication entries from 1,008 exhibitors; and 3,659 state entries from 2,767 exhibitors.
  • Polk 4-H partnered with Grubb YMCA to provide Power Scholars summer programming at Findley Elementary. 4-H youth program specialists trained staff from Grubb YMCA on the “STEM Lit to Go!” curriculum to deliver to first and second graders over six weeks. The program provided 18 hours of STEM and literacy programming to youth. The 65 youth participants included 52 Hispanic, 8 African American, and 5 white youth, all who live in a low-income area. Grubb YMCA plans to provide additional “STEM Lit to GO!” sessions for youth during the school year.
  • Despite the storm in July, Marshall County summer youth gardens donated 500+ pounds of food to those in need. Seven of the eight participating gardens were summer garden education sites. Youth learned about parts of the plants, how to harvest fruits and vegetables, how to make their fruits and vegetables into a healthy recipe, and more. Volunteers contributed 113.5 hours of work in the gardens. There were also 1,445 contact hours with youth.
  • In just over a month, Iowa 4-H collected 1,128 lbs. of pop tabs for Jacy McAlexander. Jacy, a state 4-H council member who lost his battle with cancer in May, was the son of Kerri and Earl McAlexander, 4-H youth program specialist. Jacy had been passionate about helping others through the Ronald McDonald House. Iowa 4-H brought the tabs to the State Youth Conference in June. In late July, 4-H staff, state council members, and the McAlexander family delivered the pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House in Des Moines. The 2018-19 State 4-H Council will continue collecting pop tabs for Jacy this 4-H year. For more information, contact Haley Jones, 4-H civic engagement and leadership program specialist.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Four Focus on Nitrogen workshops were held across the state, with 125 people attending. The workshops provided ISU Extension and Outreach specialists an opportunity to share research-based information on maximizing profitability with nitrogen management, while also increasing the understanding of the practices that minimize and reduce nitrate-nitrogen loss.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach specialists held a series of meetings during July and August to discuss drought conditions causing concern for crop and livestock producers. Farmers could discuss crop growth and development under drought conditions, feeding drought-damaged crops, silage and crop insurance considerations with experts from ISU Extension and Outreach, the USDA and NRCS. A total of 211 people attended. Farmers also could bring corn stalk samples for a nitrate assessment.
  • Social media continues to be an influential platform for the agricultural industry as a whole and the trend holds true here 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, creating an opportunity to influence Iowans with the goal to create a #StrongIowa. The ANR Social Media Directory captures 123 social media accounts across seven social media platforms posting on behalf of ANR. To date, those accounts reach 76,487 followers and subscribers; up 5,952 in the last six months. Notably, Twitter is the most influential platform with 57,354 followers seeking ANR information, followed by Facebook with 13,929 page likes.

Community and Economic Development

  • Design teams in the 2018 Community Visioning Program are presenting final concepts to the public and are moving into the implementation planning stage. In September, public presentations of concept designs will be conducted in Graettinger, Plymouth and Decorah. The Peterson steering committee will review the design team’s feasibility study, and the Forest City steering committee will begin implementation planning.
  • Diane Van Wyngarden is leading the Best of the Upper Mississippi River Road Scholar tour Sept. 9–15. Through this travel course, participants from eight U.S. states will learn about community histories, local economies, innovative local projects and community challenges. Communities along the tour include the Quad Cities, Guttenberg, McGregor, Marquette, Balltown, Bellevue, Hurtsville, Clinton and LeClaire.
  • Several CED faculty and staff will be attending the Iowa League of Cities Conference Sept. 12-14 in Council Bluffs. Eric Christianson will conduct outreach in the vendor area and present on nuisance abatement. Erin Mullenix will present a workshop on local government economic conditions. Biswa Das and Kimberly Zarecor will present on the Iowa Government Finance Indicators project and small towns thriving in Iowa.
  • CED specialist Jane Goeken developed a Grant Writing 101 workshop because communities had indicated an interest in and a need for grant-writing skills to find financing for community projects. She will be delivering the workshop in Decorah and Ottumwa in September.
  • Throughout September, Jennifer Drinkwater will be working in Perry on a mural next to City Hall that depicts migration stories of local Latina residents.

Human Sciences

  • Through the creation of universal child savings accounts, a $100 deposit will be made for each kindergarten student in Hamilton County schools this school year, with administration provided by the Financial Literacy Council of Greater Hamilton County. The potential impacts of these accounts include less student debt, better academic and career outcomes, and improved financial literacy over the long term. ISU Extension and Outreach played a significant role in this innovative, countywide effort. Cindy Fletcher, professor and resource management extension state specialist, led initial efforts. Barb Wollan, human sciences specialist in family finance, is a core member of the coalition, which formed in February 2015. Project members will spend the coming school year creating account structures, engaging in outreach to parents and building community awareness. The first contributions will be deposited at the end of the school year, in June 2019.
  • Families in northwest Iowa are visiting their libraries to check out STEM backpacks. Connie Beecher, assistant professor and family literacy extension state specialist, Sara Nelson, a post-doctoral research associate with the School of Education and 4-H, and Mackenzie DeJong, human sciences program coordinator in Region 1, collaborated on an Excellence in Extension grant to create the backpacks, which include STEM materials, books and easy-to-follow instructions. (School of Education students in Ames created the lessons and tested them with parents in the Ames Public library.) Each participating library in northwest Iowa received eight backpacks – two copies of each of four lesson kits. The libraries report that the kits are popular and are checked out continuously. After seeing the positive response, each of the county extension offices provided additional funding to purchase more backpacks for the libraries. The team received inquiries from other Iowa regions and states interested in replicating the backpacks. Next steps include formal evaluation, dissemination of the purchase lists and activities to facilitate the creation of additional backpacks in other counties, and working with ISU education students and Ames Public Library to create more backpacks and lessons. This project is an outgrowth of an Engaged Scholarship Funding Program project conducted by Beecher and assistant professor Mollie Appelgate. In summer 2017, they created an internship program for pre-service teachers in libraries in regions 1 and 2 focused on STEM literacy.
  • In August, Christine Hradek, coordinator for EFNEP and SNAP-Ed, and representatives from other states currently involved with Growing Together gardening and food donation projects, met with representatives from additional states that have indicated an interest in joining this expanding effort. The meeting took place in Madison, Wis., and included Master Gardeners and SNAP-Ed staff. The members in attendance identified multiple opportunities for sharing resources and strengthened their plan for shared evaluation beginning in 2019.
  • Faculty and staff who lead the community-based CYFAR Juntos project in Des Moines and Muscatine presented at the 2018 Children, Youth and Families At-Risk Conference in June in Alexandria, Va. They told colleagues across the country about effective strategies to promote communication and relationships necessary for program sustainability. Presenters included Kimberly Greder, associate professor and family life extension state specialist; Paul Gibbins, Polk County executive director; Michelle Schott, Polk County family life extension educator; Krista Regennitter, Muscatine County extension director; and Aracely Martinez, Muscatine County youth program coordinator.

A letter to the family

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 4, 2018

It has been a soggy Labor Day weekend across much of Iowa and the forecast is for more rain. Labor Day is the unofficial transition from summer to fall. Many folks try to squeeze in one more picnic or campout, and others welcome the start of football season. The rain dampened both of these activities.

Labor Day also is a time to honor the workers who keep our economy and country moving. I particularly want to recognize the dedicated members of our ISU Extension and Outreach team in the 100 county offices, in the field and on campus. The more I learn about our organization and our people, the prouder and more humbled I am to serve you. I ask all of us as councils and colleagues to take the time to say thank you to the men and women of ISU Extension and Outreach for a job well done. THANK YOU!

I also want to start a discussion about how ISU Extension and Outreach is organized in the counties and the county-to-campus connection. This topic should not be a surprise, as it was part of my interview presentation. I talked about it at the Iowa Extension Council Association (IECA) board meeting in July, and it has been discussed at some of my listening sessions around the state. However, I want to be sure everyone is in the loop. I also want to stress that this is the start of a discussion, not the final word.

Terry Maloy, IECA executive director, Bob Dodds, assistant vice president for County Services, and I met in mid-August to start the study process. A committee involving county councils and staff, state staff and administration will begin meeting in late September. That committee will formalize the path forward, but I expect that we will:

  • review our current and previous organizational structures, how extension in other states operates, and other public and private sector models;
  • identify the important functions that must occur for ISU Extension and Outreach to successfully fulfill its mission, and consider by whom and how those functions are covered; and
  • estimate implications for staff and budgets of counties and Iowa State.

Over the next 12 months, the committee will identify a small number of promising models and share the strengths and weaknesses of each. Next fall, armed with this information, I hope that some counties are willing to partner with Iowa State to implement one or more of these models.

I realize that talk about change makes people anxious, but I would rather be open about the discussion and intent than secretive. Once the committee members are named, we will share their contact information. The committee will provide updates as we meet and there will be opportunities for you to provide input. Change is seldom simple and individuals may be impacted. I encourage you to watch for updates, participate when asked and help the committee gather the information to help all of us make informed decisions.

Thank you for all you do for ISU Extension and Outreach.

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

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