Pesticide safety for Iowans

Feb. 24, 2020, message from John Lawrence

ISU Extension and Outreach began offering pesticide safety education in 1976, when legislation first required applicators to be trained in the safe and effective use of pesticides. This program, which used to be delivered to our county offices by huge satellite dishes, now is distributed via Blu-ray discs. Technology isn’t the only thing that changes in our Pesticide Safety Education Program. Each year, the PSEP provides the latest information to keep all Iowa applicators up to date on current pesticide safety and pest management. Did you know?

  • Our PSEP provides Continuing Instruction Course (CIC) recertification programs that cover a variety of topics, including laws and regulations, personal protective equipment, pesticide labels, safe application techniques, storage and handling, protecting sensitive areas such as groundwater, non-target sites and pollinators, and pests and pest management.
  • During the 2018-2019 season, PSEP held 278 programs across Iowa that educated 13,831 private applicators with the help of field agronomists and county extension staff. Last year 11,198 commercial applicators attended a CIC recertification program.

CIC programs are offered throughout the year in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. PSEP also is involved in integrated pest management, worker protection, environmental quality and agricultural health.

More notes

  • Congratulations to 12 extension professionals who will be honored at the ISU 25 Year Club banquet on March 2. Reaching 25 years of continuous service during calendar year 2019 are Patricia Gibler, Patrick O’Malley, Vicki Speake and Richard Wrage. Reaching 35 years are Richard Jauron, Christine Knight-Gipe, Jane Hayes-Johnk, Jerolyne Packer, David Stender, Jill Weber and Jeanne Wiebke. Donna Donald will be honored for reaching 45 years of continuous service this year.
  • The archive of the 2020 Census webinar (from Feb. 11) is available. In the coming months you may get questions about the Census or you may have the opportunity to educate people about it. A video, handouts and other helpful materials are available from the Indicators website.
  • On Feb. 28 from noon-1 p.m. you can join Human Sciences’ Acts of Kindness Celebration on Zoom to share and celebrate all the acts of kindness that were completed during the month. You’ll also find out who wins the grand prize – an assortment of homemade/specialty items from our Human Sciences community. For more information contact
  • Registration is open for our 2020 Annual Conference, Wednesday, April 1. You’ll find plenty of professional development, inspiration and networking as we celebrate successes and make progress toward our personal and professional goals. Some breakout sessions have attendance caps, so register soon. Annual Conference is open to everyone in ISU Extension and Outreach. Please join us.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach is part of the Extension Disaster Education Network, which focuses on reducing the impact of disasters through education. Extension safety specialist Chuck Schwab is our EDEN contact. EDEN is asking extension professionals to respond to the Extension Disaster Needs Assessment Survey, at Please respond by the end of February. Your input will help EDEN draft the request for proposals for their competitive grant program for developing new or updating existing resources.

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

MyData and county websites

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 17, 2020

In ISU Extension and Outreach, it’s everybody’s job to create and share the value and impact of our work. This job will get easier and more accurate as we roll out MyData. This centralized system soon will become the way we collect and report information about our programs, educational contacts, partnerships, client relationships and outcomes. Did you know?

  • In September 2017 a steering committee began developing one reporting system for our organization. After considering many options, the committee decided the best approach was to create our own system with Salesforce.
  • In April 2019 MyData was ready for pilot testing. Folks in Carroll, Franklin, Monroe, Muscatine and Polk counties and on campus have been not only “kicking the tires” of MyData, but also trying to crash it. They are helping us build a stronger system, so if you have the opportunity, thank them for their efforts. The pilot ends in June.
  • From October 2020 through September 2021, we’ll do online and face-to-face training and rollout to our organization. Program directors will set the timelines for their staff and faculty to participate, and Andrea Nelson, assistant vice president for county services, will set the timelines for counties. (Timelines will be staggered to accommodate various annual schedules for professional development.) Please continue using your current reporting system until you are added to the rollout.
  • Then in October 2021 all staff and faculty with programmatic evaluation and reporting responsibility will use MyData for reporting inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts.
  • MyData will be our official reporting system for internal and external reports. Beginning with annual performance reviews in spring 2022, if it isn’t in MyData, it didn’t happen.

Stay informed about MyData so you will be ready for training and rollout to your program area, county or unit. (You can review my comments about MyData from the Feb. 10 Second Monday Live archive.) We collect, handle and report data to tell our story, so our data must be accurate to tell our story well. We must be accountable – to the university, the statehouse, our federal partners and our clients and stakeholders in every county.

In other news, county offices have until March 18 to enter a contest to be the first county to transition to the new Drupal 8 county website platform. The winner will be announced at Annual Conference, April 1. With this upgrade, our websites will help us better serve our clients. Did you know?

  • The new county websites will be accessible from the ground up. They will be tested prior to going live to ensure they meet all accessibility standards.
  • A new search feature allows for both county site only and extension-wide searches. (You can try out this feature on the Extension IT site.)
  • Due to the implementation of MyData, there will not be a new extension calendar at this time. However, a new staff directory will feed staff profiles into websites, meaning each staff member will have only one profile to maintain.

We’ll have more updates on the county website transition in the coming weeks.

More notes

  • Goodbye … and welcome, January 2020: Please review this list of individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach in the past month, as well as those who have joined our organization.
  • The Feb 10 Second Monday Live archive is available. The session covered the Master Conservationist program and MyData.
  • IECA and 4-H Legislative Day is Feb. 19 in Des Moines. Extension council members and senior 4-H members will meet with legislators and hear from the governor, tour the World Food Prize building, network and participate in educational activities.
  • Join Cyndi Wiley, Iowa State’s digital accessibility coordinator, for The Art of Creating Effective Alt Text, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. Connect online. The recording from the January webinar is available on MyExtension.

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

January 2020 goodbye and welcome

In January, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Angela Ayala, Dallas County program assistant.
  • Richard Anderson, accountant II, Extension Distribution Center.
  • Kim Brantner, field specialist II, Human Sciences.
  • Willy Klein, food and environment specialist, Advancement.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Kathy Tobin, Clinton County office assistant.
  • Sarah Tanis, Black Hawk County youth nutrition and 4-H outreach.
  • Madeleine Bretey, Dickinson County youth coordinator.
  • Loran Sneller, Ringgold County youth coordinator.
  • Kelsey Wiese, Carroll County youth coordinator.
  • Bobbi Finarty, Hardin County director.
  • Shawnee Oswald, Jones County office assistant.
  • Samantha Hasper, Warren County youth coordinator.
  • Hannah Offenburger, Lucas County office assistant.
  • Toni Wiese, Harrison County youth coordinator.
  • Hilary Emmerson, program assistant II, 4-H Youth Development.

Our internal communications progress

John Lawrence’s message from Feb. 10, 2020

Nearly a year ago the Internal Communications Task Force delivered their findings at our Annual Conference. Since then the leadership team and I have been addressing their themes and recommendations. We provided an executive summary last April and updates over the past several months. Now it’s time for our first-year, internal communications progress report.

What we’re already implementing

  • We established the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program to help our people move forward with their extension careers.
  • We initiated the county visit notification email protocol for systematically communicating when staff and faculty will be visiting a county – whether they are from campus, another region or the county next door.
  • We created a virtual suggestion box so you can share questions, comments and concerns at any time. Feedback is anonymous and confidential.
  • My new Office of the Vice President website is a public site for current news, updates and information on initiatives – providing easy access for our councils. In addition, a new MyExtension homepage is coming soon. It will become our “frontpage” for internal communication from leadership to staff.
  • We had engaging discussions during our first round of area-wide meetings in August and September. The next round will take place in fall 2020.
  • In September we held listening sessions on Structured for Success. We plan to hold listening sessions on other topics this year.
  • In January we began Second Monday Live. These monthly Adobe Connect sessions provide opportunities to connect with the leadership team. (Today’s February edition addressed the Master Conservationist Program and MyData, our forthcoming mandatory reporting system. Next week we’ll send the link for the archived session.)
  • Terry Maloy, Iowa Extension Council Association executive director, is invited to leadership team meetings once per month.
  • In January, County Services began the County Services Connection, a monthly newsletter directed to county staff, councils and regional directors.

What we’re working on

As we implement Structured for Success, we will be taking a close look at roles of field specialists, regional directors, county staff and councils. We want to clarify individual responsibilities for better accountability. The two-way scorecard is under development and will formalize these communications.

We are fully committed to improving our internal communications in ISU Extension and Outreach. This is a continuing process that is strengthening our organization so we can better serve Iowans and build a #STRONGIOWA.

More notes

  • Please review the February program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • Watch this video about why the census is important to Iowa and plan to participate in our 2020 Census webinar, Tuesday, Feb. 11, from noon to 1 p.m. at Learn what you need to know about how to ensure all Iowans are counted.
  • The Structured for Success final regional boundary map has been updated with all counties’ model choices.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach 2019 Annual Report is available online as a webpage as well as an accessible PDF file. You can use the report to share how we support what Iowans value: #STRONGIOWA.

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

February 2020 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Community and Economic Development

  • The 2020 Community Visioning Program will be conducting a series of transportation assets and barriers focus-group workshops in February. These workshops are part of the assessment process that the program conducts in client communities to provide local decision makers a framework within which to make informed choices. Transportation assets and barriers workshops will be conducted in Mingo, Mount Pleasant, Wellsburg and Polk City. CED specialists Aimee Viniard-Weideman, Eric Christianson and Scott Timm will assist in facilitating the focus groups. Trees Forever field coordinators will also be presenting bioregional assessments prepared by ISU program staff to steering committees in Avoca, Madrid, Reinbeck and Lost Nation.
  • In February, CED specialists will be facilitating the Business Model Canvas in Ames and Mount Pleasant. Business Model Canvas Is a strategic management tool created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.
  • Also in February, CED specialists will be facilitating Leading Communities in Appanoose County, Cresco, and Chickasaw County. This Leading Communities program is made possible in part by a Vice President for Extension and Outreach initiative.

Human Sciences

  • During federal FY 2019, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app was installed on 6,200 new mobile devices. The website had 148,374 users, an increase of 30,000 users over federal FY 2018. The vast majority of users access the website in English. However, 906 utilized the live translation feature, with 525 accessing it in Portuguese, 128 in French and 253 in Spanish. Fifty-two percent of users now access the site via a mobile device. According to a user survey in September 2019, 49% of users access the site or app weekly or daily. When asked about behavior changes made with the help of Spend Smart. Eat Smart., users reported they cook healthy recipes, eat more fruits and vegetables, and try new foods.
  • During 2019, human sciences specialists in family finance, usually with support from county extension offices, provided direct leadership in 11 counties in recruiting, training and supporting volunteer tax preparers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of the Internal Revenue Service. In many communities additional local partner organizations also support VITA efforts. Modest funding, provided through the Iowa Center for Economic Success, covers cost of equipment, supplies, training, outreach, coordination, volunteer appreciation and travel reimbursement for volunteers and staff. Extension staff recruit and support additional volunteers and partners who assist with scheduling appointments and tax clinic operation.
    — In the 2018-19 tax season, 37 volunteers prepared 1,163 tax returns for households with low and moderate incomes at 13 sites in the 11 counties.
    — The programs assisted 68 additional households that did not need to file or for some other reason elected not to complete returns.
    — Approximately 265 of these households were eligible for the Earned Income Credit.
    — Tax refunds claimed through extension-supported VITA sites totaled nearly $1.7 million.
    — The VITA program saved the participants about $175,000 in tax preparation fees (estimated at $150 per return).
    — A new site in Waterloo served immigrants in the community and included immigrants as volunteer preparers.

4-H Youth Development

  • 4-H is revising the 12 seasonal Clover Kids lessons that were piloted during the past year and is developing the second set of 12 seasonal agendas. These 24 lessons will make up the next K-3 curriculum, STEAM’n through the Seasons. This innovative K-3 program will include engaging, hands-on experiences that incorporate STEM, literacy and the arts. In addition, 14 Clover Kids teams are kicking off the Wonder League Robotics season. Through a series of story-based missions, the team members develop problem-solving, growth mindset and creativity skills while learning to code the robot duo, Dash and Dot. This year, Wonder League has partnered with the Cartoon Network show, Craig of the Creek, to develop five theme-based missions that take Dash and Dot on adventures through the wilderness. At the end of the season, Iowa 4-H will host a Clover Kids (K-3) Wonder League Robotics expo on the Iowa State campus. The tentative date is Saturday, April 25.
  • In January Maya Hayslett led a team of 10 teens and four other adults at the 2020 4-H National Summit on Agri-science in Washington, D.C. The team participated in a variety of workshops and presentations about agriculture. Hayslett presented a session on the new set of Crops Feed the World lessons. Youth participants also were able to visit Smithsonian Museums and national monuments.
  • 4-H is revising the 10-year-old Ricochet curriculum. Updates include activities, photos, accessibility, the website and more. The team has seven facilitator trainings scheduled for 2020 for staff to either get a refresher in Ricochet facilitation or learn how to use it for the first time. The Ricochet revision process is scheduled to be complete by mid-February.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Jay Harmon was named the director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and associate dean for extension and outreach programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State on Jan. 1. Harmon, a professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering and extension livestock housing specialist, has served as interim since April 2017 and has been a member of Iowa State’s faculty since 1993.
  • The 64th annual Iowa State University Shade Tree Short Course will be held Feb. 25-27 in Ames and will focus on both using and reusing trees with a purpose. General information sessions, workshops covering specific topics and a trade show are all included, with ISU Extension and Outreach specialists joining experts from across the country in providing instruction. Registration is available online. Private pesticide applicator certification is also available during the course.
  • The Iowa State University Master Gardener program winter webcasts in county extension offices around the state begin in February. Topics for the series were chosen based on current issues and Master Gardener volunteer interest and include Iowa weather, bringing kids to the garden, and exploring the Ada Hayden Herbarium. More information is available on the Master Gardener website.

Recognizing bias and being kind

Feb. 3, 2020 message from John Lawrence

“We all have bias. It’s important to be aware of our own.” That’s a quote from an individual who participated in Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts. Our human sciences specialists in family life deliver this workshop across the state. They help Iowans to understand the impact of stereotypes and biased statements, identify the most common reasons people sit silently in the face of bias and stereotypes, and develop skills to speak up against stereotypes and respond to difficult situations. Did you know?

  • In 2019 our specialists delivered 34 workshops in communities, agencies and businesses, and to school personnel and foster grandparents.
  • These educational offerings reached 729 adults and 105 youth.
  • Delivering one workshop often led to immediate requests for more workshops.

In their evaluations, participants reported they’d gained a better understanding of stereotypes and biased statements, as well as the common reasons people remain silent. They also felt confident that they could respond. As one participant said, “I have a voice and can share how I am feeling or thinking without hurting or offending someone.”

Join the Acts of Kindness campaign

During February, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is sponsoring an Acts of Kindness campaign. The goal is to spread kindness and boost wellbeing across Iowa. Everyone who’d like to participate is welcome to engage in an act of kindness or two (or more) each week. You can check Human Sciences’ kindness calendar for ideas.

You can share your acts of kindness on social media using #StrongIowa #Kindness. You also can email a short description and picture (if you have one) of your act(s) of kindness to by 5 p.m. Friday each week to be entered in a drawing. Every Monday, Human Sciences will randomly pick one winner (either an individual or group) to win a prize. Every Friday the winner and a few of the acts of kindness performed by our colleagues will be shared in Community Chat. (Go to MyExtension for instructions on how to subscribe.) On Feb. 28 from noon-1 p.m. you can join the Act of Kindness Celebration on Zoom to share and celebrate all the acts of kindness that were completed during the month. You’ll also find out who wins the grand prize – an assortment of homemade/specialty items from our Human Sciences community. For more information contact

More notes

  • Adam Janke, extension wildlife specialist, will talk about the Master Conservationist program and answer your questions during Second Monday Live at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10. Master Conservationists share an interest in the sustainability of Iowa’s natural resources and in becoming better stewards of those resources. Adam will share results from last year’s evaluations, available resources and how county extension offices can choose to offer the program. In addition, I’ll give a brief update on MyData. Please plan to join the 30-minute Adobe Connect session at The session also will be archived for later viewing.
  • My Jan. 29 message regarding the Structured for Success final map has been archived on the Vice President for Extension and Outreach website.
  • Nominations for ISU 2020 Extension and Outreach Awards are due Feb. 10 at noon. Visit the Awards website for more information.
  • Mike Mauton in Extension IT says that all Windows 7 machines must be upgraded to Windows 10 by end of business on Friday, March 6. That’s when all computers still running Windows 7 will be blocked from the ISU network. Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7, which means these machines are no longer receiving security updates. All Windows 7 machines have been receiving hourly splash screens with instructions on how to upgrade to Windows 10. EIT is providing upgrades to Windows 10 for $25 per computer. Please contact the EIT Hotline at 515-294-1725 or if you have any questions regarding upgrading your computer.

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

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