Knowledge teams for greater impact

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 16, 2017

Many people often think of Iowa as rural, and agriculture with its related processing and manufacturing is the economic foundation for much of the state. However, our citizens live in communities, large and small, highly structured and unincorporated, and operate differently than a family or farm when it comes to governance, finance, enforcement and a vision for the future. Across Iowa, some communities are prospering while others are struggling, but all are dealing with the challenge of change.

Our ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development faculty and staff work to identify critical issues facing communities in our state and determine how best to address them for greater impact. Their combined efforts have resulted in a new team approach to community and economic development efforts. Did you know?

  • CED now focuses on five critical issues: housing, demographics, local economies, built environment, and civic engagement and leadership capacity.
  • CED faculty and staff are organized into six knowledge teams based on their expertise: art and design applications; civic engagement and leadership; data and technology; local economies; local governments and nonprofits; and promoting equity, inclusion and respect in communities.
  • CED knowledge teams include both campus and field-based specialists across the state. They are all responsible for statewide programming. However, each person serves as a point of contact for regional and county directors to help them link to CED people and programs.

CED teams address client-identified needs and opportunities, and foster creative and robust local decision-making. The goal is to build capacity in Iowans – so they can sustain their communities and make them better places to live, work and play.

County website update

Our current web content management software, Drupal 6, is no longer being updated, making it unsecure and unreliable. That is why Extension Information Technology is beginning to develop a new framework for county websites in Drupal 8. EIT will be building the new framework to improve accessibility, responsiveness and brand management, and to make adding content easier. Content editors and county offices can share feedback with the transition team by responding to surveys between October and December. Information about the surveys and links to complete them will arrive in your email soon. As the project moves forward, the transition team will provide status reports on MyExtension (login with your Net-ID and password to view). If you have questions about the project, contact

A couple more notes

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

20 years of IECA

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 9, 2017

We’ve been celebrating a lot of county 100-year anniversaries this year, and next year we’ll be celebrating even more. However, there’s another important occasion coming up in 2018: The Iowa Extension Council Association will be 20 years old. The association was incorporated in January 1998. Did you know?

  • IECA provides a way for our county extension councils to have a greater impact and voice on local and state issues. The association monitors legislative action and alerts IECA members to proposed legislation that might affect ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • IECA communicates directly with ISU Extension and Outreach leadership. The board members and executive director make sure we hear concerns, opinions and suggestions from councils throughout the state. They also keep county council members and staff up-to-date on ISU Extension and Outreach plans, policies and initiatives.
  • IECA helps facilitate extension council training, including webinars, extension council orientation and the 2018 Extension Council Conference. IECA members also meet to discuss best practices, common issues and solutions to common problems. This knowledge sharing helps councils adopt necessary changes more quickly.
  • Each spring IECA hosts a legislative day and 4-H public leadership experience at the Iowa Capitol. Council members serve as mentors for selected 4-H’ers, who have the opportunity to meet with legislators and learn about the legislative process.

I met with the IECA Board of Directors in late September. We from campus provided updates on 4-H, a survey of county leaders and progress on a couple of MOUs. The board asked thought-provoking questions and we had a good discussion. Thanks to the IECA structure, we can easily share information and gather feedback. Effective partnerships require communication and trust, and the IECA/ISU Extension and Outreach connection is key to the shared success of both counties and campus.

A couple more notes

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

True leaders

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 2, 2017

Happy National 4-H Week! This year the focus is on true leaders, grown by 4-H, who give back to move their community forward. Whether or not we were 4-H’ers ourselves, 4-H Week is the time of year that brings out the clover in all of us in ISU Extension and Outreach. We all can be proud that our 4-H Youth Development program continues to focus on the needs and strengths of youth, their families and communities. Today Iowa 4-H is addressing three growing concerns that impact Iowa’s young people. Did you know?

  • In many rural communities, highly skilled, creative, or well-educated people leave for better pay or conditions elsewhere. As rural communities lose younger Iowans, they also lose their skills and expertise, and see their overall populations decline. 4-H is working to reverse this “brain drain,” encouraging Iowa youth to remain in or return to their communities and use their skills to shape Iowa’s future.
  • 4-H is addressing achievement or opportunity gaps faced by youth with low income, youth of color and English language learners – so all Iowa youth can develop their capacity for academic success.
  • 4-H is building skills in Iowa youth to improve their college and career readiness. Youth are college and career ready when they have gained the knowledge and skills they need to enroll and succeed at postsecondary educational institutions or training programs.

Through our 4-H Youth Development programs we empower Iowa’s young people to reach their full potential and prepare them to be successful, contributing members of society. Sounds like we’re growing true leaders. (Want the numbers for your county? Download 4-H Data for Decision Makers.)

Congratulations to Award Recipients

Congratulations to the following extension professionals honored during Iowa State’s annual awards ceremony Sept. 25:

  • Donna Donald, field operations specialist, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach – Award for Distinguished Service in Extension
  • Russell Euken, beef and swine field specialist – R.K. Bliss Extension Award
  • Bailey Hanson, systems analyst, Community and Economic Development – Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice
  • Elizabeth Juchems, extension program specialist, agricultural and biosystems engineering – Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award
  • Tom Baas, professor of animal science – Regents Award for Faculty Excellence
  • Jay Harmon, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and interim director for Agriculture and Natural Resources – Regents Award for Faculty Excellence
  • Hongwei Xin, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences, assistant dean for research, Iowa Egg Council Endowed Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, professor of animal science – International Service Award

A few more notes

  • National Manufacturing Day is Oct. 6. ISU Extension and Outreach is cooperating with CIRAS and a number of organizations to highlight manufacturing across Iowa on Friday and throughout the month. For example, Keokuk County is partnering with Axmear Fabricating in Thornburg to host tours of the facility. They have invited Indian Hills Career Academy’s machine and welding classes as well as the county’s FFA chapters.
  • If you happen to be in Ames Oct. 10, stop by the Brunnier Art Museum in the Scheman Building from 7-8:30 p.m. to celebrate Rose Frantzen and the 39 portraits included in the Faces of Iowa State exhibition. University Museums Director Lynette Pohlman will make brief remarks at 7:30. Light refreshments will be served.
  • I encourage our office professionals to register for the 2017 Office Professionals Conference. The registration deadline is close of business on Monday, Oct. 16. The conference is a great opportunity for professional development and networking with colleagues from across the state. If you have questions about the conference, contact Director of Professional Development Carol Heaverlo,

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

Everybody’s job

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 25, 2017

Say what you’ll do, do what you say and prove it with numbers. That’s a basic premise of quality management, and it is top of mind as we strive to maintain and improve the quality of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It’s everybody’s job, in every part of our organization, to create and share the value and impact of our work. So we’re taking action to get better at sharing our story. Did you know?

  • Our updated ISU Extension and Outreach strategic plan will be ready sometime this fall.
  • A steering committee is working on developing one reporting system for our entire organization.
  • We’re developing resources for public value training.

Learn more in this video message about our strategic plan, our reporting system and our public value.

still image from John Lawrence video

County Stakeholder Reports

Each fall we ask county offices to create county stakeholder reports highlighting programs with significant local impact. These reports are a good way to help citizens, stakeholders and decision makers understand how we connect the needs of Iowans with Iowa State University research and resources. Our goal is to have all the 2017 reports completed by Jan. 1, 2018, before the start of the next legislative session. In the meantime, you can review the 2016 county stakeholder reports online.

Need Input on County Fair MOU template

A couple of weeks ago I shared that a committee representing ISU Extension and Outreach, county fairs and FFA is drafting a template/checklist to help local leaders develop their own county fair MOU. We’re sharing one video message with the three groups at the same time about the process underway and we’re asking everyone for input on what the template/checklist should include. If you have input for the committee, please contact one of these ISU Extension and Outreach representatives before Nov. 1:

  • Bryan Whaley, Region 2 Director,, 515-341-6967
  • Joe Sellers, Beef Field Specialist,, 641-774-2016
  • Nancy Adrian, Washington County Extension Director,, 319-653-4811
  • Mandy Maher, Fremont County Program Coordinator,, 712-374-2351
  • Annette Brown, 4-H Youth Program Specialist,, 515-432-3882
  • Bob Dodds, Assistant VP, County Services,, 515-294-0013
  • John Lawrence, Interim VP for Extension and Outreach,, 515-294-6675

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

All around the block

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 18, 2017

At about the time I joined ISU Extension and Outreach as a livestock economist in the early 1990s, Home Economics Extension was transitioning to Extension to Families. The staffing pattern was changing from county home economists to families field specialists. This was part of an overall restructuring in our organization to become more flexible, respond to changing needs and better serve Iowans. When you look at our history in ISU Extension and Outreach, this seems to be the bottom line. We don’t rest on our laurels. We look for better ways to do what we do. So a few years ago, Extension to Families became Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, once again looking for a better way to serve Iowans.

In summer 2014, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach implemented a new “block” concept with specialists working as teams to deliver education. Results of their efforts are coming in, and one example is the Regions 1 and 5 block, served by specialists Lori Hayungs (family life), Jan Monahan (family finance) and Renee Sweers (nutrition and wellness), along with Mackenzie DeJong, human sciences coordinator for O’Brien, Lyon, Osceola and Sioux counties. Did you know?

  • The team was involved in nine collaborative community groups and released a quarterly newsletter featuring upcoming program dates and highlighting past programs.
  • Working together, they reached more people. From last year to this year, they hosted 16 more programs, 25 more sessions and reached 750 more participants. On average, they hosted a face-to-face educational session more than once every other day.
  • Annually nearly 1,800 new mothers in all nine counties receive physical copies of the first month of the “Just in Time Parenting” newsletter, in English and Spanish as needed. All school districts within the nine counties receive the September issue of the “Dare to Excel” newsletter.
  • ServSafe courses are taught throughout the year, helping local businesses meet food safety training requirements and keep customers safe. Iowa State dietetics interns spend time in the region learning about the dietitian’s role within ISU Extension and Outreach. Rising Star interns are trained on food safety and receive guidance throughout their internship. In summer 2017, a College of Human Sciences Heddleson intern delivered nutrition programming in Clay County.
  • Through partnerships and capacity building, eight communities took new action to address public issues.

This is but one example of successful Human Sciences Extension and Outreach programs that result from strong partnerships among county staff, volunteers and specialists – all around the block and throughout the state.

Office Professionals Conference

Registration is open for the 2017 Office Professionals Conference at the Iowa State University Memorial Union. This will be a great event tailored to the needs of the front-line professionals who represent ISU Extension and Outreach to the public every day. We start Wednesday, Oct. 25, with a preconference on the nuts and bolts of accounting and financials, and continue Thursday, Oct. 26, with a full day of workshops and roundtable updates about county delivered programs and best practices for effective office operations. I strongly encourage office professionals to attend, and learn and connect with campus resources and peers from across the state. Check the conference website for details about the workshops and roundtable topics and to register. The conference promises to be an informative and valuable training, and we will have some fun as well. I look forward to seeing you in Ames!

One more thing: Congratulations to Ida County, winner of this year’s CyDAY Friday contest. The ISU Trademark Licensing Office selected Ida County because “they showed their Cyclone spirit and we liked the community involvement.” Ida County hosted a tailgate in front of their office in Ida Grove, featuring photos with Cy, games for youth and local firefighters who brought along their red firetruck. A Cy-cone ice cream machine provided cones for all.

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


Minding the store

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 6, 2017

I still remember the first extension publication I authored as a new livestock economist at Iowa State: “Electronic Markets for Feeder Pigs” back in 1992. Think of it as eBay for animals. Maybe it wasn’t pure poetry, but it was good research-based information that farmers could use. We printed a couple thousand copies, which were available from the Extension Distribution Center. Back then it was a warehouse, with extra storage offsite. Every publication was available in print, often by the thousands or tens of thousands. How times have changed! Today there still is some warehouse space with tangible, hard copy publications on the shelf, but most of the inventory is online at the Extension Store. Did you know?

  • Extension’s eCommerce site began in fall 2001 and was primarily text-based with limited details about available publications. Thumbnail images, descriptions, related products and apparel were added in the mid-2000s, after a full time programmer and data architect joined the staff. Enhancements continue today, and the store partners with ISU Information Technology as needed.
  • All of ISU Extension and Outreach’s tangible publications now are warehoused within 4,500 square feet in the Printing and Publications Building on campus. The Garden Calendar (HORT 3027) is the most popular, with approximately 2,500 copies sold each year.
  • The Extension Store has 2,000+ unique digital products from all program areas available for free download. In FY17, those publications collectively were downloaded 1.9 million times worldwide. The Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey (FM 1698) is the most popular digital publication, with 82,500 downloads per year.
  • You can check the Extension Store for new, revised or back in stock titles at any time.
  • The Extension Store also serves as a fulfillment center for several Iowa Department of Public Health divisions, housing more than 200 tangible titles available exclusively to IDPH staff. Annually about 100,000 copies are distributed within Iowa.

The Extension Store’s five fulltime employees have been with ISU Extension and Outreach for 15+ years, on average, but not because they like the fumes from ISU Printing. They are dedicated to getting research-based information to people in Iowa and around the world. The next time you’re on the north side of campus, stop in to say hello and get a tour, and thank them for their efforts.

One more thing: The ISU Trademark Office is sponsoring a contest for county offices for the ISU/Iowa CyDAY Friday on Sept. 8. The county office that shows the most spirit/creativity – AND posts photos to the Iowa State CyStyle Facebook page or emails photos to – will receive a limited CyDAY Friday prize. Go Cyclones!

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

Our Rising Stars

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 28, 2017

2017 Rising Star interns

Iowa State students returned to campus last week to begin the fall semester – including 15 who now have a better understanding of ISU Extension and Outreach than they did a few months ago. These students, our 2017 Rising Star Interns, spent their summer learning about local food systems, exploring Iowa communities and considering careers as extension professionals.

I first met the interns in the spring. Over dinner at the Gateway, we talked about the exciting work they planned to do. I also had a chance to meet up with a few of the teams this summer as I was out touring the state. A few weeks ago, they all presented their final projects to the extension leadership team, their college deans and regional directors. Did you know?

  • The Rising Stars in Region 1, Leah Brooke, Ruby Hotchkiss and Madison Lapke, developed “Grow! Know! Whoa!” This program for children covered three aspects of local food: how to grow it, the health benefits and how to prepare it.
  • Region 3 interns Erin McDonald, Josephina Matteson and Rui Xie developed strategic plans for Ackley and Latimer, a master plan for the Worth County fairground, a strategic implementation plan for the historic Winifred Hotel, and a strategic plan for educating and serving local foods producers in the region.
  • The interns in Region 5, Emily Bormann, Madison Hemer and Izzy Worrall, focused on serving people “from ages 6 to 80.” They made connections and built relationships with community members through youth programming, food demonstrations and special events.
  • Region 7 interns Rachel Ulven, Shana Hilgerson and Yuanhao “Rory” Wang evaluated Rising Star media platforms, developed intergenerational activities to promote local foods, and promoted Spanish language inclusion at farmers markets.
  • In Region 20, interns Kaitlin Brake, Breanna Burnett-Larkins and Thomata Doe introduced children to new fruits and vegetables during summer lunch programs and rated the effectiveness of visual merchandising and branding on farmers markets. They also worked to increase awareness of local foods as a whole, as well as the role Eat Fresh Southeast Iowa plays in promoting local growers.

From what I can tell, the interns had a fun and rewarding experience this summer. They all deserve our thanks for a job well done. At least a few of them are thinking seriously about a career in ISU Extension and Outreach. Keep that in mind the next time you’re hiring, and encourage them to apply.

One more thing: County fair season is almost over (hang in there, Guthrie and Clay), and it’s time to report county 4-H data. We need to fulfill our state and federal reporting requirements, as well as make our data available to extension councils and the public through Data for 4-H Decision Makers. And we need your help. State 4-H Leader John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas says fewer than half of our county 4-H programs have entered their data, and half of those have entered only partial data. The Oct. 1 deadline will be here soon, so let’s pick up the pace and get that data entered. It’s important for your county, for 4-H, and for all of ISU Extension and Outreach.

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

The Faces of Iowa State

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 21, 2017

It’s time to take a look at the Faces of Iowa State. The exhibit opens today at Iowa State’s Brunnier Art Museum and features 39 portraits painted by Maquoketa artist Rose Frantzen. The Iowa Staters who are featured include students, faculty, staff, alumni and others with close ties to the university. Iowa State commissioned Rose to paint the first batch of portraits during the 2016 Iowa State Fair. She came back to Iowa State last spring and painted the rest. Her work carries on a tradition of Iowa State portraits. Did you know?

  • Since the 1930s, numerous portraits have been commissioned to commemorate presidents, deans, faculty and alumni, and honor Iowa State’s heritage and legacies. ISU departments and colleges continue this tradition today.
  • Three of the Faces of Iowa State have strong connections to ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • Marshall County Extension Council member Mary Giese was selected as an example of our 900 elected council members.
  • Evan Fritz, a 2016 Iowa State graduate, Rising Star intern and former 4-H’er, represents how ISU Extension and Outreach builds skills in young people throughout the state. (That includes leadership skills. Evan now is a Winnebago County Extension Council member.)
  • JaneAnn Stout, retired director of ISU Extension to Families and associate dean in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, influenced countless Iowans through education, outreach and her personal contribution to issues directly affecting their lives.

The exhibit continues at the Brunnier through Dec. 8 and then hits the road, including stops at these locations: Maquoketa Art Experience, Dec. 9, 2017-Feb. 12, 2018; Muscatine Art Center, Feb. 15-April 15, 2018; Pearson Lakes Art Center, April 26-June 23, 2018; Blanden Art Museum, Aug. 4-Oct. 14, 2018; and Harvester Artspace Lofts Exhibit Gallery, Council Bluffs, Nov. 4-Dec. 31, 2018. After the tour, the portraits will join Iowa State’s permanent Art on Campus Collection.

A couple more notes

  • Congratulations to Gary Taylor for completing what must be one of the longer interims on record. He’s now officially director of the ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development program, as well as associate director of the Institute for Design Research and Outreach, and director of Design Extension.
  • Vote for Parkin-A-Punch to win a $50,000 Encore Prize. This Human Sciences project with USA Boxing matches young boxers with older adults who have Parkinson’s disease. As the older adults learn boxing, they become role models, helping their young coaches identify and pursue their goals and dreams. You can vote once per day through Aug. 31 and help this project advance to the final stage of judging.

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

Wear the brand with pride!

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 14, 2017

If you’ve seen me out in the state this summer (or if you follow me on Twitter), chances are you’ve noticed the red shirt I’m wearing. It probably had the ISU Extension and Outreach wordmark on it or Iowa State University. Maybe it featured the I-State logo if I was doing something related to Athletics and the Cyclones. The point is, on any given day I wear the appropriate shirt depending on what I plan to do. I show my connection to Iowa State, which matters to our clients.

In 2010 we conducted quantitative and qualitative needs assessments. When Iowans were asked how they would describe ISU Extension and Outreach, the most common response was “unknown” – and these were people who already used our services! However, nearly all were aware of Iowa State and had a positive perception of the university. It was obvious then that we had to connect more strongly to Iowa State to better serve all Iowans.

During the past seven years, we’ve made a lot of progress in building our brand. We need to stay on task, and we are not changing our branding strategy during this interim period. Did you know?

  • Today you’ll find more than a hundred ISU Extension and Outreach branded templates on MyExtension (sign in and check the Advancement tab). If you need to make a brochure, newsletter, stakeholder report or just about anything, you’ll find a template you can use. You also can contact our Advancement team for answers to questions, training and support.
  • Sign in on the Extension Store to find all kinds of organizational marketing items you can order, including pens, pencils, mugs, podium signs, table cloths, posters and banners. There’s even an ISU Extension and Outreach rain gauge for the hopeful among us.
  • Besides branding your events, remember to brand yourself. Order a new name badge via MyExtension (sign in and search for name badge) if you need one, or update your wardrobe with ISU Extension and Outreach branded apparel from the Extension Store. (Sign in and search for apparel.)

There’s no reason for ISU Extension and Outreach to be a best kept secret any more. No matter where you are or what you do, it’s easy for you and your event to be properly branded. All our program areas, departments, units and county offices are part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, a 99 county campus with one well-known, credible brand. Wear it with pride.

One more note: As Interim President Ben Allen states, we must not ignore what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, or pretend it doesn’t impact us. I support his message that hatred, racism and bigotry have no place at Iowa State University, including Extension and Outreach. Please read his message.

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

State Fair

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 7, 2017

They say nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair. While that’s true, I offer this amendment: Nothing compares to ISU Extension and Outreach at State Fair! There’s our 4-H connection, of course. Who hasn’t been to the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building or the livestock venues during 4-H show time? However, we are all over that fairground. We’re the reason you can stroll through a garden, or stomp grapes or find out what that porkchop-on-a-stick will cost you, calorie-wise. Did you know?

  • State 4-H youth program specialists are expecting nearly 3,600 static exhibits and more than 900 communication entries, which include educational presentations, working exhibits, extemporaneous speaking and Share the Fun performances.
  • Since the mid-1990s, the Polk County Master Gardeners have been the caretakers for the Discovery Garden near the Agriculture Building.
  • In front of the Ag Building by the big pumpkin weigh-in (or inside, if it’s raining), you can find out how well you know your weeds during the Weed ID contest Aug. 11, 9-11:30 a.m.
  • You can visit Grandfather’s Barn Wine Experience for a daily wine stomp, viticulture experts and kids’ activities. You’ll probably find our viticulture specialist Mike White there, and if you show up at 2 p.m. Aug. 11, you can cheer for Cy as he takes on Herky and TC in the Mascot Grape Stomp.
  • You’ll find extension colleagues working at Iowa State’s main exhibit in the Varied Industries Building. “Forever True, Thanks to You” features student clubs and experiences made possible by donor support to Iowa State.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach provides nutritional information for the Iowa State Fair Food Finder App, along with the number of calories associated with the items and the amount of physical activity needed to burn off all that fair food.

I’m looking forward to my time at the fair, and not just for the porkchop-on-a-stick I plan to consume. Aug. 11 is Iowa 4-H Day. I’ll be helping with 4-H alumni and friends registration at the 4-H Foundation tent on the Grand Concourse from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., so stop in and say hello. On Aug. 12 President Ben Allen and I will be showing steers in the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. I’ll be there Aug. 17 for Iowa Department of Land Stewardship’s Century and Heritage Farm event. Six of these family farms include land that is part of our Land Grant Legacy and we’ll be recognizing them during the event. I’ll even be serving as a “celebrity chef” (their term, not mine) at the Iowa Pork Producers’ food venue. For updates on my whereabouts through the fair, follow me on Twitter, @JohnLawrenceISU.

A couple more notes

  • Be sure to take a look at the August program update from the leadership team.
  • Besides learning more about all our programs, we also need to learn more about each other. Watch this short video to get to know Clark Colby, our 4-H arts, communication and design program specialist.

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

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