Communication recommendations

John Lawrence’s message from April 22, 2019

About a year ago, I appointed and charged a task force with figuring out how to improve communication within ISU Extension and Outreach so we could do a better job of delivering on our mission. More than 1,000 hours of staff time later, at our 2019 Annual Conference, these hardworking colleagues delivered their report – all 215 pages of it – to me and to the leadership team. Did you know?

  • Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn co-chaired the task force, which included staff members Alex Merk, Andrea Nelson, Ben Pullen, Ann Torbert and Terry Torneten; and Marshall County Extension Council member Mary Giese. (And they are very grateful for Patti Lewis, secretary in Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, who provided administrative support.) We appreciate all their work and thank all of them for their dedication to this effort.
  • As the task force members gathered information in various ways, they were encouraged by the positive response in both numbers of participants and thoughtfulness of the comments. The amount of data generated was wide-ranging and represented many perspectives.
  • With everything they discussed, contemplated and decided, their collective desire was to increase the effectiveness of ISU Extension and Outreach.

Over the past few weeks, the leadership team and I have been reviewing the full report, and we’re pleased to share this Internal Communications Task Force Report Executive Summary, which includes a summary of the findings and all of the task force’s recommendations. Overall, the data indicate that significant challenges exist within ISU Extension and Outreach. However, the data also show that our people believe our organization can address these challenges and improve our situation.

The leadership team accepted the full report, and during our retreat on May 31, we will focus on prioritizing the task force’s recommendations and decide how to move forward. However, we all have a role in improving communication within our organization. As the leadership team develops an implementation plan, we promise to gather your input and communicate with you regularly.

I will include updates in my weekly email messages at least once per month to keep you informed on progress. These “Internal Communications: Updates” also will be compiled on my “Did You Know” blog, so you can refer to them at any time, all in one place. In addition, we’ll add a link to this updates page within MyExtension and on the Structured for Success webpage so that everyone has more than one way to find the latest updates.

Together we’ll move ISU Extension and Outreach forward – to provide transparency, boost morale, increase the effectiveness of our organization and improve our service to all Iowans.

One more note: Sometimes ISU Extension and Outreach also faces external communication challenges, but that is a fact of life for a large, varied and complex organization. When a news story or a social media post or an offhand comment gives you pause, remember our vision, our mission and our goals. Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach are committed to diversity and inclusion on campus in Ames and in every corner of the state. (And it’s the third goal in our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan.) We want our faculty, staff, students, and all of the people we serve through Extension and the 4-H Youth Development program to know they are welcomed, supported, and valued. We are dedicated to serving all Iowans.

We focus on feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it. We will keep striving to make ISU Extension and Outreach more diverse and our programs more inclusive, and overall to make our organization, and the part of the world we influence, a place of justice for all.

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

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