Opening doors

John Lawrence’s message from July 24, 2018

When you approach a closed door you have two options – you can open it and go through or leave it closed and stop. In terms of economic development, our state does better when we open the door. That is what our Latino business and entrepreneurship team has been doing since 2003, and that is why the team has received the ISU Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa. Community development specialists Lisa Bates, Himar Hernandez, Victor Oyervides, Jill Sokness, Scott Timm and Jon Wolseth have impacted more than 150 businesses. In the past three years, they have broadened their scope to work with not only Latino entrepreneurs, but also entrepreneurs from other minority business groups, including African-American and refugee populations. Did you know?

  • The team helps entrepreneurs with comprehensive, business improvement practices and strategies. As a result, minority-owned businesses have been able to apply for and receive loans, renovate their store façades, get required permits from city hall and ultimately expand their businesses.
  • Most minority-owned businesses are located in downtown areas, so the team works broadly with these and other business owners to invigorate downtown revitalization efforts.
  • The team has linked minority-owned grocery stores in eight Iowa communities to local food producers and farmers. This initiative has resulted in more markets for local producers and greater availability of locally grown produce for underserved populations.
  • The team also opens the door for ISU students, helping to link them to minority-owned business communities for applied learning.

These examples are real success stories for Iowa State, ISU Extension and Outreach, and Iowa communities. Mark your calendars for Sept. 14, when the Latino business and entrepreneurship team and other award recipients will be honored during the university’s annual awards ceremony.

We’re opening another door through translation and interpretation. ISU Extension and Outreach has committed resources to fund a half-time position to provide language translation and interpretation support for our educational programs. Juan Ramirez, who has been and will continue as youth and families education assistant program coordinator in Dallas County, now will also provide language translation and digital voiceover support for our organization. He also will serve as an interpreter for scheduled events in which he is an identified trainer, such as ServSafe, Juntos and Maize. Juan, who is an Iowa State graduate, is fluent in English and Spanish, and is proficient in French and Portuguese.

You may submit your translation request by emailing Juan at In your email message please include your name, project name, program name, and date that you need the translation completed or date of your event (for interpretation support). For translation, please attach your content as a Word document or PDF.
After Juan receives and reviews your request, he will provide you an estimated completion date based on the size of the task, date received, due date, complexity of the content, and the number of requests in the pipeline ahead of yours.
Jeff Jackson, Dallas County executive director, and Ross Wilburn, our diversity officer, will supervise Juan’s workflow. For more information, contact Jeff ( or Ross (

One more note: Many thanks to Deb Sellers, Barbara Woods and Keli Tallman for compiling ISU Extension and Outreach data for the 2018 Healthy Iowans Progress Report. The report, as well as Iowa’s revised Health Improvement Plan 2017-2021, is available on the Healthy Iowans website.

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

Best practices for diversity

John Lawrence’s message from March 19, 2018

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach does not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or status as a U.S. veteran. This opening sentence of our non-discrimination statement is important. It not only applies to all Iowans, it applies to all of us: Not just those who are on federal funding, who work on campus, or who work in a particular program, but everyone who is part of ISU Extension and Outreach. But it is only the bare bones of our diversity and inclusion commitment. To get to diversity and inclusion’s heart and soul, we have to take action.

The third goal in our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan is to enhance efforts in programming, operations, and staffing to reach diverse and underrepresented populations. The strategies we’ve set for this goal include

  • doing more to recruit, hire, onboard and retain diverse faculty and staff;
  • making sure our partnerships support inclusion and involve underrepresented audiences;
  • taking stock of how well we’re doing (during annual performance reviews); and
  • becoming more competent in working with diverse and underserved audiences.

These efforts are best practices that will make ISU Extension and Outreach more diverse, our programs more inclusive and overall help us become a better organization. We have great resources to help us. Did you know?

We educate farmers so they can adopt best practices in agriculture. We share research so communities can grow or shrink smart. We teach families the steps for healthier eating, and we build skills in youth so they are ready for college and careers. So surely we can adopt best practices to reach all Iowans. President Wintersteen aspires for Iowa State University to be the most welcoming and inclusive university in the country. Let’s do our part and aspire for ISU Extension and Outreach to be the most welcoming and inclusive extension service.

A couple more notes

  • You won’t get a message from me next Monday, March 26. Instead, I hope to see you at Annual Conference.
  • Make plans now for Extension and Outreach Week, April 16-21.

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

Buy. Eat. Live Healthy.

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 8, 2017

By now you’ve probably noticed a pattern. You find a message from me in your inbox from time to time. This will continue – usually once a week and most of the time on Monday. I’ll be sharing what I’m hearing from our partners, stakeholders and all of you. I may include announcements and updates, and maybe some ISU Extension and Outreach history, but I’ll also share what I’m learning about our programs.

I continue to learn and be amazed by the great work of our colleagues in ISU Extension and Outreach. Each month program directors send me a brief update – points of pride about their programs. It helps me know what is going on and provides me information to share with stakeholders and with the rest of our organization. The example below is from two members of the Human Sciences team regarding the “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” program.

“Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” helps Iowans who are experiencing poverty make the healthiest choices possible when grocery budgets are tight. Did you know?

  • Christine Hradek says in 2016 the program served households representing 5,306 people.
  • More than 35 campus and county extension staff work with the program.
  • Fifty-one percent of all clients served in “Buy. Eat. Live Healthy” are racial or ethnic minorities and 71 percent have incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
  • In 2016, 49 percent of participants increased their consumption of fruits, 50 percent increased their consumption of vegetables, 44 percent were more physically active and 87 percent improved their food resource management, which means they are less likely to run out of food by month’s end.

Jill Weber shared news of an exciting day for the program in Black Hawk County. She said program assistant Gail Forristall graduated “the most diverse class in our history, with three languages being translated in the same class – French, Bosnian and Spanish. The class was recruited during a visit Gail made to an ELL class at the YWCA. The participants came to the office weekly on Saturday mornings to participate in ‘Buy. Eat. Live Healthy.’ The group identified questions they had related to family finance and we arranged for Jeannette Mukayisire to visit one of the classes. They will now go into ‘Your Money Your Goals’ with Jeannette, the family finance specialist.”

This is a great example of ISU Extension and Outreach making a difference in people’s lives. And, they have the evaluations to prove it. Furthermore, Gail’s recruitment strategy was direct and to the point. Go to the people and help them address their needs. Our colleagues also provided comprehensive programming. What started as education on healthy eating and living led to a financial management course. Chances are that these participants will continue as ISU Extension and Outreach clients and turn to us with other questions.

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

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