51 county centennials

John Lawrence’s message from April 9, 2018

ISU Extension and Outreach will be celebrating 100 years of organized extension work in 51 counties this year. Last time I checked, I was scheduled to attend at least half of them. (Some counties are still getting their plans together and haven’t scheduled their celebrations yet.) The events started in February with Cherokee County, and West Pottawattamie in March, and continue throughout the spring, summer and fall, to early December. Did you know?

  • On April 10, 1906, the Iowa Agricultural Extension Act became law, making Iowa the first state in the nation to formalize extension at a land-grant university. The appropriation the first year was $15,000. (Yes, I’ve been reading my R.K. Bliss extension history book again.)
  • Clinton County was the first to organize for extension work, raise money locally and hire a county agent. M.L. Mosher signed a contract July 6, 1912, to become the county agent Sept. 1.
  • Over the next few years, the rest of our counties began organizing for extension work.
  • The rest of the nation caught up in 1914, when the Smith-Lever Act formally established the Cooperative Extension Service and the partnership between the Federal government and the states. Iowa State became the first land-grant institution to accept the terms.
  • We began celebrating our county 100-year anniversaries in 2012. We’ll have our final three county centennials in 2019 – Page, Dallas, and Jefferson counties.

We all can be proud of our heritage as we engage citizens with university resources in partnership with federal, state and county governments. However, as we celebrate our history, we are focused on Iowa’s future.

More notes

  • Make sure to review the April program update from the leadership team.
  • Extension Information Technology says April 30 is the LAST day to order new computers and have them billed for the 2018 fiscal year. Current computer quotes and an order form are online. Any computers ordered on or after May 1 may not arrive in time to be setup and billed by the end of the fiscal year. If you have questions, please email Michael Mauton, systems analyst, mmauton@iastate.edu.
  • Take a moment to watch this short video of “20,000 Meals from the Heartland,” our meal-packaging experience during Annual Conference. You might even see yours truly, sporting a hairnet and beardnet.

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

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

From Ackley to Zwingle

John Lawrence’s message from Jan. 8, 2018

If you travel in Iowa for any length of time or distance, you’ll notice that many places offer one-stop-shopping for donuts, pizza and gasoline, and whatever else you may need when you’re on the road. ISU Extension and Outreach applies this convenience store concept to data, but does it one better: all the merchandise is free. I’m talking about the Indicators Portal from our Community and Economic Development program. The portal provides one-stop access to reliable, current data on all things Iowa. Did you know?

  • Originally funded as a Vice President for Extension and Outreach Strategic Initiative in 2013, the Indicators Portal is designed to be useful for local and regional decision-making. This tool makes it easy and convenient for all of us to find, use and visualize information.
  • The portal team recently released City Data for Decision Makers reports for all of Iowa’s 945 cities. From Ackley to Zwingle, the reports show population trends, demographics and socioeconomic indicators such as income, poverty, employment, housing characteristics and health insurance coverage.
  • The Indicators Portal also provides access to Data for Decision Makers reports by county, Iowa Senate district, Iowa House district, and ISU Extension and Outreach region, as well as reports of youth and 4-H program data.

Visit the portal and look around. You’ll likely find what you need and a lot more.

A few more notes

  • Excellence in Extension offers grant opportunities for all ISU Extension and Outreach staff (county, state, faculty, P&S, merit and hourly) to improve and enrich the quality of our programs. The application deadline is Feb. 1.
  • It’s time to acknowledge our Friends of Extension for their efforts on our behalf. Submit award nominations by close of business Feb. 2 to http://recognition.espnational.org/ (select “Other recognition, Friends of Extension” from the drop-down menu). Then our Epsilon Sigma Phi/Alpha Mu Chapter awards committee will review the nominations and submit our state winner to national. For more information, contact Jerry Chizek, jwchizek@iastate.edu.
  • Nominations for ISU Extension and Outreach Awards are due at noon, Feb. 9. Check the awards website for the list of awards, eligibility and criteria, and nomination forms.

One more thing: I want to take a moment to remember Greg Wallace, who died in an in-home accident in late December. Greg led our social media initiative for ISU Extension and Outreach as part of the Advancement team. Our Facebook, Twitter and other online presence has grown exponentially in recent years and is one of the largest digital footprints of any extension program in the nation. Greg alone wasn’t responsible for all of this growth, but he played a key role in helping guide others and in managing and monitoring the posts and tweets that carried our brand. We all have benefited from his work, and we are richer for having known him. Rest in peace, Greg.

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

Shrinking smart … and thriving

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 11, 2017

Some small Iowa communities are losing population, but that doesn’t mean they are withering away. Some of them are thriving. You might say they are shrinking smart. That’s the terminology used by an NSF-funded multidisciplinary team (from architecture, computer science, planning and sociology) in their new publication, “Shrink-Smart Small Towns.” (You can download the complete report from the Extension Store.) Authored by David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist, and Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture, the report discusses the reasons some communities are still thriving as they lose population. Did you know?

  • This study looked at one randomly selected Iowa community per county with a population of at least 500 but under 10,000, not adjacent to a major city.
  • Towns were classified as growing or shrinking and as smart or poor by comparing change in population with change in quality of life. The study identified 12 shrink-smart towns.
  • Peters found that shrink-smart towns are tied to agriculture and have grown their industrial employment base. However, shrink-smart towns also have diverse and inclusive social linkages. Residents participate more in local projects and belong to more organizations. Overall, these communities foster a culture of openness to new ideas and support of others.

The first thing shrinking towns can do to improve their quality of life is focus on their social infrastructure, Peters says. Bridge the divides across economic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and even between newcomers and long-time residents. Encourage folks to join organizations and get involved in local projects. These actions involve leadership and human capital rather than brick, mortar and smokestacks. They don’t cost much to implement, but the pay back is significant. And, leadership and capacity building is something that ISU Extension and Outreach does very well. The research team, lead by Zarecor, is in the process of interviewing residents and leaders in select shrink-smart towns to identify best practices that can be used by other communities across Iowa. Visit the project website for details.

A few more notes

  • Make sure to review the December program update from the leadership team.
  • The county fair partnership agreement materials are available online. The template will assist counties in having discussions between Extension, Fair Boards and FFA as they develop their own agreement tailored to their county fair needs.
  • The Faces of Iowa State exhibit has begun touring the state, and the first stop is the Maquoketa Art Experience. If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet (or even if you have), check it out while it’s on the road during the next year.

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

All in a day’s work

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 4, 2017

An “unplanned” electrical outage left the Extension 4-H Building and a few other places on the north side of campus in the dark for a few hours one morning last week. Yet our extension folks persevered, until their computer batteries started getting low on juice and the WIFI went down as well. Then they packed up and headed for other parts of campus or home that had electricity and internet access and got back to business. Because dealing with changes in technology, of any kind, is all part of a day’s work for extension personnel.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the university soon will roll out a new application to help protect our data. Keeping our data safe is all in a day’s work for our tech people. Did you know?

  • This new application, called Okta, will provide “single sign-on,” which means you will log in once to access all your work-related web applications – Office 365, Cybox, Qualtrics, Access Plus, etc.
  • Okta provides multi-factor authentication. This is stronger protection than your password alone. To log in to Okta, you will type in your Net-ID and password. You also will verify your identity using a second method, such as an application on your cell phone or a code sent via text message.
  • Multi-factor authentication relies on something you know (your password) and something you have (application, text message code, etc.). If your credentials (your Net-ID and password) were to be stolen, the thieves still would not have access to your data, because they would not have your phone or the text-message code.
  • The university plans to implement Okta early in 2018. Extension IT will keep us posted as we get closer to the implementation date.

We also have a responsibility to keep our data safe, and a best practice is to change our NET-ID passwords every six months. (I just changed mine on my computer and phone.) Follow the instructions from Extension IT or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725. For regular IT updates, visit the Extension IT website and subscribe to Tech News.

A couple more notes

  • The Partnership Agreement (formerly known as the MOU) template/checklist to facilitate discussions among ISU Extension and Outreach, fair boards, and school boards locally is nearing completion. A brief video from the three state partners, the editable template and supporting materials soon will be available online. Check my update on Monday, Dec. 11, for details.
  • About that power outage – Facilities Planning and Management blamed it on a failed cable. The Extension 4-H Building was back online by noon.

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

Growing together – and grateful

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 27, 2017

Thanksgiving tends to make people think about what they’re thankful for. One thing we all should be thankful for is safe food. I recently learned about two of our programs that address food safety. In early November, I completed the ServSafe program required of food service managers. It is a daylong training provided by our human sciences specialists. (FYI, I passed the test and now have a backup plan if this university thing doesn’t work out.) I also spent time with our AnswerLine team on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. While they handle more than food questions, they typically have more than 400 phone calls in the four business days leading up to Thanksgiving. Many calls deal with proper thawing, cooking and left-over planning, all of which have food safety implications. These colleagues are a great resource for consumers and staff alike, and represent ISU Extension and Outreach at our best. They also have some interesting stories to tell.

Besides the time with family and friends, and a tasty and safe turkey dinner, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve as your Interim VP. I continue to learn about, and be grateful for, our programs and our people. You make me proud every day as we work together to serve Iowans.

For example, “Growing Together Iowa” combines the efforts of Human Sciences with Agriculture and Natural Resources for a common goal – feeding people. For the second year in a row, our SNAP-Ed nutrition education and our Master Gardeners partnered with local food pantries to reduce food insecurity in Iowa. Did you know?

  • 74,924 pounds of fruits and vegetables were harvested and donated as of Nov. 8. This amount includes produce from Master Gardener mini-grant recipients in 15 counties as well as the home demonstration gardens on six Iowa State research farms.
  • More than 75 sites (food pantries, meal sites, shelters, etc.) received these fruits and vegetables.
  • Using a formula of three servings per pound, this year’s harvest yielded 224,772 servings of fruits and vegetables for Iowans with low income.
  • 231 Master Gardeners volunteered their time to the project. Assuming a 20-hour per person commitment (the annual Master Gardener volunteer requirement), the value of their time is estimated at up to $111,526 or 2.28 FTE.
  • An additional 457 volunteers participated in the project throughout the state.
  • New publications created as part of this project include recommended vegetables to grow for food pantry donation and food safety in donation gardens.

Other land-grant universities have been watching. Three (University of Wisconsin, Purdue University and University of Nebraska) recently completed their first year replicating our first-in-the-nation model of mobilizing Master Gardeners and SNAP-Ed to address access to healthy food.

One more thing: Iowa State recently won an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Universities compete in four categories that recognize different components of economic engagement; Iowa State won the “talent” category. ISU Extension and Outreach has a key role in our university’s economic development efforts, and we played a part in winning this award as well. Our 4-H Culturally-based Youth Leadership Accelerator program was featured in a case study submitted with the award application. For more information, see the APLU news release.

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

STEM Lit to Go!

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 21, 2017

The WOW Center in the Extension 4-H Building looked like a warehouse and assembly line a few weeks ago, as our 4-H staff were putting together the pieces for another research-based curriculum, one kit per county. About 2,000 pie tins, 10,000 brown paper bags and 1,200 foam pool noodles cut in half lengthwise, along with stacks of children’s books, cans of Play-Doh and many more interesting items, were being squeezed into 100 plastic tubs. 4-H and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach call it “STEM-Lit to Go!” The program supports the development of STEM and literacy skills for K-3 youth. Did you know?

  • This program integrates inquiry-based STEM activities and carefully selected children’s literature. Through roller coasters, inventions and other engaging topics, children explore key STEM concepts such as the engineering design process and conducting investigations.
  • In each lesson, youth try a hands-on STEM experience and then read, write, speak and listen about that experience.
  • The curriculum draws from resources published by the National Science Teachers Association and the International Literacy Association. It also supports the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

ISU Extension and Outreach state and county staff piloted “STEM-Lit to Go!” at 11 sites across the state during the summer of 2017. During YouthFest in late October, staff from all 100 county offices picked up a copy of the curriculum and a tub of supplies. Now they’ll start training their Clover Kids leaders to facilitate “STEM-Lit to Go!” for Iowa 4-H Clover Kids groups, day camps and afterschool programs, and through partnerships with local school districts.

A couple more notes

Finally, I want to wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Take time to enjoy family and friends and truly be thankful for those things you hold dear.

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

What regional directors do

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 6, 2017

In ISU Extension and Outreach, our 20 regional directors work to strengthen the partnership between Iowa State University and county extension districts, resulting in improved institutional outreach and higher quality of life for all Iowans. This statement from the website sounds good, but to understand what regional directors do, consider some examples. Did you know?

  • Regional directors help county extension council members serve effectively. They educate and consult with councils so they are better able to meet the legal, financial and programmatic needs of their extension district.
  • They advise councils and county staff members throughout the complex task of preparing a county budget.
  • Regional directors represent the ISU Vice President of Extension and Outreach in the field and raise the awareness of research and resources available from Iowa State University with extension councils, county staff members and local stakeholders.
  • Regional directors encourage county extension councils to collaborate and implement new initiatives such as the Rising Star Internship program and the Engaged Scholarship program.
  • They also facilitate annual county needs assessments, working in partnership with extension specialists across our four program areas.

Our regional directors have a variety of previous work experience – including K-12 education, social work, city administration and the U.S. Air Force. They also vary by degree – including ag economics, communications, horticulture, and family and consumer sciences. However, they all are deeply committed to taking our university to the people and communicating the needs of Iowans to Iowa State – to help shape research and program priorities.

Sharing Iowa’s history

Last week in Albia, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg helped commemorate the 160th anniversary of the State Historical Society of Iowa and the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Arts Council. The governor and lieutenant governor issued a proclamation, and the governor also added a sticker to the map on the Iowa History 101 mobile museum to recognize the visit to Monroe County, part of the museum’s 99 county tour. We’re glad to be a partner in this effort to bring our state’s history to Iowans.

One more thing: Last week I congratulated the football, cross country and volleyball teams on their success. Iowa State has one more national recognition to celebrate. The Iowa State University Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band has been recognized as one of the nation’s top marching bands. The band has won the 2017-2019 Sudler Trophy from the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The award was announced last December, but the band was honored at the 2017 Homecoming football game. The Drumline from the band performed at the Office Professionals Conference and Youthfest, and they know how to liven up a room. Congratulations to these dedicated students.

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

Strong partnerships for prevention

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 30, 2017

Each partnership is stronger than the one before: That is the model for the work Human Sciences Extension and Outreach does with the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State. This successful working relationship began in the 1990s, with interventions designed to address youth substance abuse and other problem behaviors. As they’ve increased competencies in families and youth, their work has led to a robust research base and international acclaim. Did you know?

  • Human sciences specialists, county staff and community members have led the internationally renowned “Iowa Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14” since the early 1990s. SFP 10-14 is evidence-based, which means we have the research to prove it gets results.
  • Experience with earlier projects led to PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). These partnerships make it easier to deliver scientifically tested interventions and promote youth competence. Several human sciences specialists spend about 20 percent of their time as prevention coordinators in PROSPER counties.
  • Mackenzie Johnson, a human sciences specialist in family life, is working with PROSPER staff to update the “Family Matters” curriculum, which will be used with two PROSPER projects. She will help the team remain true to the core components of the evidence of the curriculum while updating it to be engaging and usable for today’s parents.
  • Specialists Sara Sprouse, Joyce Lash, Mackenzie Johnson and Lori Hayungs recently were trained in the “Universal Prevention Curriculum.” The goal of the series is to ensure effective delivery of prevention interventions. PROSPER offered this opportunity to our staff in appreciation for the partnership Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has with PPSI.

It is more effective to prevent substance abuse and other problem behaviors before they begin, than to try to stop them after they start. It’s not rocket science; it’s prevention science – and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is a key partner in sustaining these efforts.

A few more notes

  • Iowa State University has a new president, with a close extension connection. Wendy Wintersteen began her career as a field agronomist in east central Iowa, served as an integrated pest management extension associate and worked her way up with leadership positions in ISU Extension and Outreach, as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We look forward to working with ISU President-Select Wintersteen. (Her official start date is Nov. 20. See the news release and her first message to the Iowa State community.)
  • The application deadline for the 2018 Rising Star Internship program is Nov. 1. For a reminder of why we support this program, watch this video: some of our 2017 Rising Star Interns share their stories.
  • Congratulations to Iowa State’s Women’s and Men’s Cross Country Teams winning the Big XII championship, Women’s Volleyball knocking off #11 Kansas and the Football victory over the second top 5 team in a month. All in Homecoming week!

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

Other duties as assigned

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 23, 2017

About 100 office professionals representing all areas of ISU Extension and Outreach and from throughout the state will be coming to Ames later this week for the Office Professionals Conference. We are pleased to offer them this professional development opportunity.

“Office professional” must be one of the most far-ranging job categories we have in ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • According to Human Resources Coordinator Kaela Black, job titles within the category include office assistant, office manager, bookkeeper and administrative assistant. You’ll also find secretaries, administrative specialists, account clerks and others.
  • Currently 147 county paid employees work in an office professional role throughout the state. Another 27 employees serve as office professionals on campus.
  • An office professional’s responsibilities may include answering client questions on the phone or face to face and maintaining payroll information and fiscal and other records. On any given day, these staff members may order supplies, organize volunteers, update databases or certify manure or pesticide applicators. Their work even may include occasional heavy lifting – of files, books, stacking chairs, meeting room tables and whatever else might need to be moved. (Then the rest of us expect them to know where everything is!)

And of course, office professionals have “other duties as assigned” as they work together with everyone else in the office to make sure that the people they serve have access to Iowa State’s research and resources. They are often the first contact between the public and ISU Extension and Outreach. We appreciate their skills, their professionalism and their commitment to Iowans. We can’t be a 99 county campus without them.

A couple more notes

  • We also appreciate our first cohort of mentors who took part in continuing professional development last week. While it is everyone’s responsibility to make our organization a rewarding and enjoyable place to work, these mentors will be guiding our new colleagues and helping them launch successful careers. They are committed to ensuring our culture continues in the next generation of ISU Extension and Outreach. Our second cohort of mentors will begin their training in our next Mentor Academy, Nov. 28-29.
  • The Epsilon Sigma Phi Annual Meeting is Oct. 26, 9-11 a.m. via Adobe Connect. ESP focuses on fostering excellence in the Cooperative Extension System and developing extension professionals. Annual ESP members have voting privileges, but all extension staff members are invited to attend and learn more about the organization.

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


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