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.

Planning a program of work

John Lawrence’s message from June 25, 2018

Last week as I began my visits to every region in the state, I had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders, staff and extension council members in Regions 1, 4 and 17. (I’m in Region 20 today.) We talked about issues that impact their region’s ability to thrive and, given our core programs, where they see ISU Extension and Outreach helping them address the issues. With staff and councils we also discussed how we strengthen our organization and our partnership. These regional discussions have been great, and I am looking forward to visiting the rest of the regions later this summer and fall.

A key responsibility of each of our county extension councils is to plan for extension programming to meet the needs of the people in their county. To be successful, councils have to be able to plan and carry out a strong county extension program with county office staff. A group effort from County Services and the regional directors is making this task easier. Did you know?

  • The new County Extension Council Educational Program of Work template is designed to help councils take a systematic approach to providing research-based educational programs and services to the people in their communities. (County staff can download the template from MyExtension for council use.)
  • The template offers a sequence of questions and considerations for addressing an identified need with an action plan and the budget to support it. The template lays out outputs, outcomes, and evaluation steps, as well as risk management precautions.
  • A council’s programming committee would take the lead in working with county staff to complete the template and draft a program plan for each specified need. Then the entire extension council would review the program plans and make informed decisions to distribute and approve resources.

The program of work template doesn’t need to be completed for every county activity. For example, club calf weigh-ins and pressure gauge testing, though important, don’t require the same level of preparation as a sequenced series of educational workshops. As councils and county staff work together to meet the needs of Iowans with new programming, the County Extension Council Educational Program of Work template helps everyone keep track of the details, meet research-based program expectations and promote accountability by all parties.

More notes

  • The Internal Communications Task Force met again June 18 and the executive summary from the meeting is posted on Cybox. The task force’s role is to gather input and make recommendations by the end of the year. The leadership team will make the decisions regarding implementation.
  • Lea Baumhover, a former 4-H’er and current summer assistant in Buena Vista County, narrates a new College of Human Sciences student recruitment video for family and consumer sciences education and studies. Emily Bormann, a 2017 Rising Star intern from Region 5, also is featured in the video. (To learn what our current Rising Star interns are doing, read their Rising Star blog.)
  • This week we will welcome almost 900 teens to campus for the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. It’s a unique opportunity for young Iowans to experience campus life and meet new people from across the state.

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

Team vs. beetle

John Lawrence’s message from June 4, 2018

A shiny green beetle, about a half-inch long, soon may be appearing in an ash tree near you. It’s the time of year when the emerald ash borer and the damage it causes become easier to see. An invasive and destructive tree pest, EAB is damaging ash trees in over half of Iowa. Did you know?

  • EAB is native to Asia, where native parasitic wasps and Asian ash tree resistance keep it under control. Through international trade, EAB accidentally was introduced to North America. It was first found in the U.S. (southeast Michigan) in 2002. Since North American ash species have not developed resistance to fight back, EAB continues to spread.
  • EAB was first detected in Iowa in 2010, when it was officially confirmed in Allamakee County. In April 2018 with USDA confirmations in Taylor and Carroll counties, EAB now has been detected in 57 counties. If EAB is found in one location in a county, eventually it will be found elsewhere. For example, EAB was officially detected in Story County (in Story City) in 2014, and was found in Ames last week.
  • The adult beetle colonizes the top of ash trees first and then moves down the tree. The larval stage tunnels just under the bark, feeding on wood tissue containing nutrient- and water-conducting vessels. The ash tree will die within two to five years.

Fortunately, there is a bright spot amid the destruction: The Iowa EAB team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners. The team includes ISU Extension and Outreach specialists in entomology, horticulture and forestry; and officials from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the USDA Forest Service. Through collaborative efforts, the team helps identify where EAB has been detected in the state, and educates Iowans about treatment options for healthy ash trees and alternative species to replace declining or damaged trees. The emerald ash borer is spreading across the state, but the Iowa EAB team is making sure Iowans are prepared.

More notes

  • Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn are leading a task force to determine how we can improve communication within ISU Extension and Outreach. I’ve asked the task force to gather information from across the system, assess what they learn and share their recommendations with the Leadership Team. On May 29, the task force reviewed current methods of communication within our organization and met with members of the Leadership Team to hear their perspectives. One theme that surfaced was that a lack of clarity in roles, structure and processes might be contributing to our communication challenges. The task force is working on ways to collect input from internal stakeholders throughout our system. Please contribute to this process when asked. As their work progresses, the task force will post reports on Cybox.
  • As I mentioned during annual conference, I intend to visit every extension region in the state to learn from staff, partners and stakeholders. The first four visits are scheduled for the second half of June. I will keep you informed as plans develop.

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

We are part of something bigger

John Lawrence’s message from April 2, 2018

packaging meal kits for Meals from the Heartland during annual conference 2018.
ISU Extension and Outreach packages meal kits for Meals from the Heartland during 2018 Annual Conference.

Nothing brings people together quite like working shoulder to shoulder in hairnets and packaging 20,000 meals in an hour. Our Meals from the Heartland service project at Annual Conference was a specific example of networking with a purpose to fight food insecurity. But it also serves as a metaphor for all our work in ISU Extension and Outreach. No matter what we do, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

A year ago I told you our organization was in a strong position for what was ahead of us. As I said at Annual Conference last week, that’s still true now, even though we are facing another difficult budget year. We are talented people working together – campus and county; faculty, staff and councils. I am confident we will find ways to address any issues that we may face. Did you know?

  • President Wintersteen is working with leaders from across campus to develop a plan to implement the midyear reversion for the FY18 budget. We will soon know what the final dollar impact will be for Extension and Outreach. The Leadership Team has planned for it and will be able to cover it centrally.
  • We don’t yet know the FY19 budget status and potential for salary increases. We are well positioned, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be adjustments of some kind. Stay tuned.
  • I truly believe that ISU Extension and Outreach is an investment to nurture. I hope you all believe it, too. But it isn’t enough to believe it; we must show it. Continue to do the important work, but also measure and report the impact. Report the return on investment of public funds. ROI is a major theme from President Wintersteen. She understands ISU Extension and Outreach and knows we have an important role in delivering that ROI.

I am honored and humbled to serve as Vice President for Extension and Outreach. This is an opportunity to give back to Iowa State, ISU Extension and Outreach, and all of you who have helped make me successful. Over the past year I have learned a lot more about our organization, our programs and our people. Thanks to you and our land-grant heritage, we do amazing things for Iowans. The more I learn, the prouder I am of our organization. We have established a great track record over more than 100 years of extension work in Iowa, and we get to shape what our future will be.

I believe our future starts with a solid foundation on which to build – a foundation anchored in the land-grant mission of accessibility and research-based information, and made of respect and trust earned by generations of our extension predecessors who educated, informed and served Iowans. They have turned over to us this structure we call home. It is now our turn to build on the next story of ISU Extension and Outreach. So let’s get started – by listening to each other, our partners and stakeholders.

  • I have asked Chad Higgins to lead a comprehensive needs assessment this year and the planning process is underway.
  • As part of this process, I will be holding listening sessions around the state to hear from staff, partners and stakeholders. Watch for more details about the dates and locations.
  • We are also listening internally. Sometimes we have trouble communicating within our complex family. The challenge cuts across all our programs, but is more apparent in 4-H where state and county programming are most closely tied. I have already appointed a task force, chaired by Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn, to learn about our internal communication or lack thereof. They will gather information from across the system, assess what they learn and share recommendations with the Leadership Team. Please contribute to this process when asked.
  • Finally, I would like to hear from you. I plan to attend many of the 51 centennials this year, county fairs and your events. I will get to as many as I can when invited. Also, my office, phone and email are easy to find, so don’t hesitate to reach out and bend my ear.
  • As I mentioned during my interview, I think the 2009 reorganization broke our system. We are nine years into the reorganization and I believe that we have learned some things that we can improve upon. I will start a discussion for options to repair our system. I will work with the Iowa Extension Council Association and our staff to begin the discussion and work toward solutions in an open and transparent process.

I look forward to building a strong Iowa together. Please continue the great work that you do every day. Continue to go the extra mile to help Iowans help themselves. Continue to make us all proud to be Iowa State University Extension and Outreach!

A couple more notes

  • Here’s something else we can be proud of. Instead of a speaking fee, our Annual Conference keynote speaker Michelle Book asked for a donation to the Food Bank of Iowa. Extension and Outreach donated $5,000. Every $1 provides four meals to Iowa children, families and older adults in need, which means we contributed 20,000 more meals to fight hunger in Iowa.
  • Take another look at our extension job shadowing video. It’s a good reminder that when we take the time to get to know each other, we gain insights and an appreciation for the variety of work we do. We can find new ways to work together for greater impact as we engage Iowans.

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

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