Accelerating leadership

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 24, 2018

Sometimes we need to accelerate to get where we want to go. This is true when driving down a highway, but it’s also true in ISU Extension and Outreach when we’re trying to connect with Iowans we haven’t yet reached. For three years now, 4-H has been offering culturally based youth leadership accelerators to young people who haven’t experienced our youth development programs. It’s an academic way of saying we’re placing these kids on the fast track – building skills to improve their college and career readiness, addressing achievement or opportunity gaps, and encouraging them to use their skills to shape Iowa’s future. Did you know?

  • Culturally based youth leadership accelerators use cultural strengths to introduce youth to 4-H and Iowa State. The Ujima and AAPI Retreat, Sept. 28-30 on campus and at Clover Woods, provides youth in grades 8-12 the opportunity to experience the university and explore 4-H healthy living, STEM, civic engagement, leadership, and communication and the arts programs through an African, Asian and Asian/African-American perspective.
  • The Maize Retreat, offered in the spring, celebrates Latino and Native American cultures through keynote speakers, cultural entertainment, educational workshops and meeting other youth from across Iowa.
  • Youth attend as a group from their county, so they register, travel and participate together. After they return home, they can apply what they’ve learned together, increasing the likelihood that they’ll continue in their county 4-H program.
  • Youth in grades 8-12 from any background are welcome to participate in 4-H leadership accelerators.

Data from the first three years show that these accelerators have brought 686 young leaders of color into Iowa 4-H. In some cases, the youth have joined existing 4-H clubs and learning communities. Many more have worked with volunteers to develop new culturally based clubs and participate in other state 4-H leadership opportunities, including State 4-H Council and National 4-H Conference. Accelerator graduates also have helped lead statewide programming.

One in five K-12 youth in Iowa is of color and our 4-H membership should mirror this trend. We will continue to strengthen our core of clubs, curriculum and volunteers, and we will continue to actively recruit new participants. We are committed to being inclusive and welcoming, and to fulfilling the national 4-H goal of having members, volunteers and staff who reflect Iowa’s population.

More notes

  • The Internal Communications Task Force met Sept. 17 and the executive summary from the meeting is posted on Cybox.
  • I’m visiting two regions this week: Sept. 25, Region 15, and Sept. 26, Region 16.
  • The CALS P&S Council is hosting an ice cream social Oct. 4, 1:30-3 p.m. in the Kildee Hall Pavilion. Meet and greet the council representatives and share comments and concerns. RSVP so they can stock enough Dairy Science Club ice cream.

— 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

County fairs

John Lawrence’s message from July 17, 2017

Picture this: a summer day, hot and humid, with no discernable breeze. Do you know where your county extension professionals are? On any given day between mid-June and mid-September, they can be found at their county fairgrounds. That’s not surprising, since the Association of Iowa Fairs membership includes 106 Iowa county and district fairs plus local festivals and related activities. Our partnership with county fairs is part of our history and tradition. R.K. Bliss wrote that “from the first the Extension Service was called upon to give help to fairs during the fair season … The principal contribution of extension to fairs in the early years of the Extension Service was to make them more educational.” Our county fair contribution continues, as we provide education and build partnerships to solve today’s problems and prepare for the future.

4-H Youth Program Specialist Mitch Hoyer probably has lost track of how many times he’s heard fairgoers say, “I didn’t know you could do that in 4-H!” (He’s superintendent of the 4-H Exhibits Building at the Iowa State Fair.) Iowa 4-H’ers’ fair exhibits represent the broad scope of our 4-H Youth Development program, covering animals, ag and natural resources, creative arts, family and consumer sciences, personal development and STEM. 4-H youth also participate in communication events, educational presentations and working exhibits. 4-H at the fair is far more than cows and cooking, though there are plenty of these exhibits too. The Association of Iowa Fairs gathers statistics from the financial reports that all fairs are required to file. For 2016, did you know?

  • 17,139 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors brought 70,311 livestock entries to their county fairs.
  • 14,885 4-H and FFA building exhibitors showed 66,814 exhibits.
  • 4-H/FFA premiums totaled $533,324.

However, more important than the money, ribbons and competition, is the education that occurs. Fairs give 4-H’ers an opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned. The evaluation they receive helps them measure their progress toward meeting their goals and against standards of excellence. They also gain encouragement and inspiration to expand their project interest and activity. In addition, their families get to work together and the public gets to see what it means to be involved in 4-H. The whole county fair experience is one more way 4-H meets the needs of Iowa youth.

County Fair Memorandum of Understanding

Our county extension councils have great partnerships with Iowa’s county fair boards. About 60 counties even have a written, signed MOU that lists each group’s responsibilities for making their fair successful. That’s a great idea that we’d like to expand statewide. So we’ve started a committee with representation from fair boards, FFA, and ISU Extension and Outreach. They’re thinking about the key aspects that make a great fair and developing a template that other counties can use to write their own MOUs. We hope to have a draft ready for extension councils and fair boards to review this fall, with a finished template available in December.

With turnover on county fair boards, within FFA programs and in our county extension offices, it makes sense to capture some county fair best practices and get them down in writing. If you have any insights you’d like to share, please contact a regional director, Bob Dodds or yours truly.

One more thing: The Black Hawk, Polk and Jefferson County Extension Councils are partnering with College of Human Sciences researchers in the next round of the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program. It’s a great opportunity for councils to invest in new research with Iowa State and partner with ISU Extension and Outreach to bring educational programs to county residents.

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

Social capital and civic measures

John Lawrence’s message from July 3, 2017

July seems like a good time to take the temperature of Iowa’s communities – figuratively, that is, in the form of activity and engagement. Fourth of July, county fairs and other celebrations are indicators of community involvement and leadership. These events and their success don’t spontaneously occur – they take planning, creativity, cooperation and hard work by local people.

Associate professor and extension rural sociologist David Peters has found that the strongest drivers of quality of life are social capital and civic measures – whether residents participate in the community and whether the community provides social supports. Like a lot of good research, the results confirm what we have suspected for a long time. R.K. Bliss reported that during the Great Depression communities came together and created their own entertainment with singing and plays that ISU Extension and Outreach helped communities to organize. Even earlier, Iowa State short courses took faculty by train to communities for a week of extension education in our four program areas of agriculture, home economics (as it was called back then), youth and community development. Paraphrasing Bliss, the short course was effective in education and in leadership development because it required a large amount of work and effort on the part of the local people to carry it through.

Today our Community and Economic Development faculty and staff are organized as knowledge teams, all striving to build Iowans’ capacity to sustain their communities. Did you know?

  • The local governments and nonprofits team helps Iowans develop leadership skills and knowledge to generate policies, procedures and planning to improve their communities and regions.
  • The team is gearing up for the 42nd Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy, beginning July 17 and cosponsored with the Iowa League of Cities. The annual institute is one of the nation’s largest, each year bringing together more than 200 city clerks, finance officers and others for specialized training. (Learn about one participant’s story in this video.)
  • Our State and Local Government Programs reach public officials in all 99 Iowa counties and in a majority of the state’s 950 incorporated cities every year.

One more thing: Extension Information Technology says two-thirds of our faculty and staff whose net-ID passwords hadn’t been changed in 10 years or more, have stepped up and changed their passwords. Of course, that means we still have a few laggards out there, proving the adoption diffusion curve. The deadline is nearing. On July 11, anyone with a 10-year-or-older password will not be able to login and will have to upgrade. So you might as well change that password now.

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

Cy, Abe Lincoln actor and John LawrenceP.S. Happy anniversary, Morrill Act! Abraham Lincoln signed our land grant act on July 2, 1862. I ran into Abe recently in Warren County and we shared a photo op with Cy.

Innovation, sustainability and cyber security

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from May 15, 2017

Using what works from past experience – something sustainable – to create something innovative. That was the topic of our 2017 Annual Conference and the challenge we put forth in our follow-up request for proposals. I am pleased to announce the recipients of our four $2,500 innovation and sustainability grants.

  • Jennifer Best, Scott County; Full-Service Community Schools Initiative – Davenport. Extension and Outreach will work with Madison Elementary and community leaders to educate families about a new preschool site, enroll neighborhood 4-year-olds in the program and support the families. Their goal is to ensure a best start to the children’s academic career.
  • Danielle Day, Dubuque County; Dubuque Farm to Institution Local Foods Project. This program will help build relationships between local farmers wanting to increase their scale of wholesale production and institutions looking for ways to increase their procurement of locally grown foods.
  • Leah Feltz, Hamilton County; Engaging the Latino Community. Hamilton County 4-H plans to grow sustainable relationships with strong informal leaders and beneficial programs within the Latino community. They also plan to add interpreters to their 4-H Clover Kids programming to grow a sense of belonging within their services.
  • Jed Findlay and Willy Klein, Advancement; Portable Educational Display for the Land Grant Legacy Project. Advancement will create a portable interactive media display containing stories, profiles and facts about Iowa’s land grant legacy to connect more Iowans to Iowa State and ISU Extension and Outreach. The goal is to offer an experience that strengthens a sense of community as it helps people from different cultural groups, backgrounds and interests begin to fashion a local culture that expresses their unity in being Iowan.

Another way we innovate is through technology. Before I started this interim vice president position, I signed off on “ANR by the Numbers,” a mini annual report for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach. In 2016 we reported on our increasing engagement online – including 7.7 million webpage views, nearly 6 million unique visitors to our websites and more than 4 million downloads (webinars, podcasts and presentations). On May 1 enrollment opened for another ANR offering – an online review course to help Iowans prepare for the Certified Crop Adviser examination. The course includes presentations on crop, pest, nutrient, and soil and water management – all linked directly to CCA performance objectives. Participants can access the material on their schedule. CCAs work with farmers on nearly every acre every year, so the impact of this education is significant.

Online engagement is a big deal for all our program areas, units and departments in ISU Extension and Outreach. It also can be a huge vulnerability, as we increasingly do our work on our portable and hackable laptops, tablets and smartphones. We need to keep cyber security top of mind.

Have you changed your Net ID password lately? If you have, you are in the minority. Extension Information Technology says only 27 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are less than 1 year old. Did you know?

  • 49 percent of ISU Extension and Outreach staff and faculty passwords are 1 to 5 years old.
  • 11 percent are 5 to 10 years old.
  • 13 percent are more than 10 years old.

Passwords are not like our vehicles where age and miles are a point of pride. If you’re using an old password, it’s time for a change. If you’re using something easy, like cyclone1 or your dog’s name or 12345, it’s time for a change, too. I changed mine while I was writing this update. Now it is your turn.

Longer, complex passwords or passphrases are more secure than shorter, simple passwords. Good, strong passwords protect your personal information as well as the business, research and educational information of the university. Extension IT recommends changing your Net-ID password every six months (I put the reminder on my calendar.) and has suggestions for selecting a password that’s harder to hack. Follow the instructions  or call the Computer Support Hotline at 515-294-1725 if you need help. You’re going to be hearing more on this topic from University IT and Extension IT.

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

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