Introducing MyData

John Lawrence’s message from June 17, 2019

Back in March I told you that we were getting closer to having one shared reporting system for our entire organization. Now I am pleased to introduce MyData, the centralized system that will expand our ability to collect and report numbers and narratives about program outcomes, partnerships and client relationships. Did you know?

  • Five counties (Carroll, Franklin, Monroe, Muscatine and Polk) and some campus staff currently are piloting MyData. For the next six to 12 months, they’ll be using the system; providing feedback on best practices for managing, sharing and accessing data; and suggesting improvements. They’ll also help to identify the reports, dashboards and other features that extension professionals are likely to request. In addition, they’ll become a cohort of users who can help develop and deliver training for the rest of us.
  • After the pilot has been completed and any necessary adjustments have been made, MyData will be rolled out in phases. The schedule and the training will be tailored to the specific needs, uses and work cycles of each extension unit.
  • If all goes as planned, MyData will be tested, tried and rolled out to the entire ISU Extension and Outreach system sometime in 2021.

The goal for MyData is to meet as many county and program reporting needs as possible. ISU Extension and Outreach units have unique needs for collecting and reporting data, which requires feedback from many to make MyData work for all of us. In the coming months you’ll be hearing more about MyData from the steering committee and your unit leaders. Because MyData is really our data, please engage in these discussions and provide feedback. Let’s work together to create the best system possible. You also can check MyExtension to follow MyData’s progress.

Internal Communications: Update

During our leadership team retreat on May 31, we started prioritizing and in some cases bundling the recommendations from the Internal Communications Task Force. As a result, on June 21 I will be meeting with staff from Extension Information Technology and Advancement for a preliminary discussion about a centralized, internal communications platform for extension staff and faculty. While I think of MyExtension as a file cabinet that stores tools, content and assets, I see this platform as a newspaper. This platform could include information from leadership, and other internal communications from the program areas, support units and counties. Other items like a virtual suggestion box, calendar of events, or my Vice President for Extension and Outreach schedule also could be included. This is an initial meeting to discuss what this platform might include and understand what sort of resources – technical or otherwise – might be needed.

These technological tools will help us better communicate virtually and stay informed. The in-person, area-wide meetings that will begin in August will help us put faces and names with the digital messages and build better relationships within our organization.

Interims from and in Advancement

Effective July 3, Jacy Johnson, director of ISU Extension and Outreach Advancement, will serve as interim executive director of ISU Strategic Relations and Communications, a new unit that will replace University Relations. The new unit is part of President Wintersteen’s efforts to re-envision the university’s approach to communicating and marketing to deal with budgetary challenges, and seek greater efficiency and continuous improvement. (You might say she is applying ISU Extension and Outreach’s model of Advancement to the rest of the university.) While Jacy is serving President Wintersteen, Billie Koester, strategic relations manager in Advancement, will serve as Advancement’s interim director.

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

Guiding tourism for success

John Lawrence’s message from May 20, 2019

With a trained tour guide, a community tourism attraction has a better chance for success. That’s why some of our Community and Economic Development staff used Excellence in Extension funding to develop a new curriculum. With their Herb Howell Creative and Innovative Program Grant, Diane Van Wyngarden, Himar Hernández, Jane Goeken, Abigail Gaffey, Steve Adams and Victor Oyervides created Professional Guide Training and Certification. The new program is the first of its kind in Iowa: It is designed for staff and volunteers who lead guided programs at community tourism attractions, such as museums, parks, conservation areas, historic sites, nature centers and agritourism venues. Did you know?

  • The one-day Guide Training workshop features interactive methods and techniques for creating and delivering dynamic guided programs, with a focus on guiding adult visitors.
  • Everyone who completes the workshop has the option to receive Professional Guide Certification from Iowa State University for an additional fee. Certification is completed at the individual’s workplace or tourism location.
  • In April, 85 people attended the first Guide Training workshop. The next statewide workshop is June 13 in Mason City and is open to the public. The fee is $10 per person and includes the course workbook, workshop activities, lunch and refreshments. This low fee is made possible through the team’s additional funding partnership with Iowa Economic Development Authority/Iowa Tourism Office and the Central Iowa Tourism Region.
  • This month Diane has conducted certification sessions with the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid, the Iowa Railroad History Museum in Boone, the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames, the Ames Chamber of Commerce, the Mahanay Bell Tower and Thomas Jefferson Gardens of Greene County in Jefferson, the State Theatre in Washington, the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, and the Botanical Center and Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.

Tourism guidance is one of the ways our CED unit strengthens communities and their local economies. All Iowans benefit when local people join together to make their communities better places to live and work. For more information or to pre-register (by June 5) for the June workshop, contact Diane Van Wyngarden at dvw@iastate.edu.

Tuition Assistance Program

ISU Extension and Outreach is a knowledge-based organization and our people are our greatest asset. The Vice President for Extension and Outreach Tuition Assistance Program is designed to help our people move forward with their extension careers. The program will reimburse tuition costs up to one-half of 4 credits per term, once each term (Fall, Spring and Summer) – up to one-half of 12 credits per year. County-paid and ISU-paid extension employees may apply for the program, whether taking credit courses from Iowa State, a community college, a private institution or other accredited public institution. Check the Professional Development website for eligibility and participation requirements, and other information.

Internal Communications: Update

During our leadership team retreat on May 31, we will focus on prioritizing the recommendations from the Internal Communications Task Force. I counted 25 recommendations in the executive summary. We need to set priorities so we can begin taking action.

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

Communication recommendations

John Lawrence’s message from April 22, 2019

About a year ago, I appointed and charged a task force with figuring out how to improve communication within ISU Extension and Outreach so we could do a better job of delivering on our mission. More than 1,000 hours of staff time later, at our 2019 Annual Conference, these hardworking colleagues delivered their report – all 215 pages of it – to me and to the leadership team. Did you know?

  • Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn co-chaired the task force, which included staff members Alex Merk, Andrea Nelson, Ben Pullen, Ann Torbert and Terry Torneten; and Marshall County Extension Council member Mary Giese. (And they are very grateful for Patti Lewis, secretary in Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, who provided administrative support.) We appreciate all their work and thank all of them for their dedication to this effort.
  • As the task force members gathered information in various ways, they were encouraged by the positive response in both numbers of participants and thoughtfulness of the comments. The amount of data generated was wide-ranging and represented many perspectives.
  • With everything they discussed, contemplated and decided, their collective desire was to increase the effectiveness of ISU Extension and Outreach.

Over the past few weeks, the leadership team and I have been reviewing the full report, and we’re pleased to share this Internal Communications Task Force Report Executive Summary, which includes a summary of the findings and all of the task force’s recommendations. Overall, the data indicate that significant challenges exist within ISU Extension and Outreach. However, the data also show that our people believe our organization can address these challenges and improve our situation.

The leadership team accepted the full report, and during our retreat on May 31, we will focus on prioritizing the task force’s recommendations and decide how to move forward. However, we all have a role in improving communication within our organization. As the leadership team develops an implementation plan, we promise to gather your input and communicate with you regularly.

I will include updates in my weekly email messages at least once per month to keep you informed on progress. These “Internal Communications: Updates” also will be compiled on my “Did You Know” blog, so you can refer to them at any time, all in one place. In addition, we’ll add a link to this updates page within MyExtension and on the Structured for Success webpage so that everyone has more than one way to find the latest updates.

Together we’ll move ISU Extension and Outreach forward – to provide transparency, boost morale, increase the effectiveness of our organization and improve our service to all Iowans.

One more note: Sometimes ISU Extension and Outreach also faces external communication challenges, but that is a fact of life for a large, varied and complex organization. When a news story or a social media post or an offhand comment gives you pause, remember our vision, our mission and our goals. Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach are committed to diversity and inclusion on campus in Ames and in every corner of the state. (And it’s the third goal in our 2017-2022 Extension and Outreach Strategic Plan.) We want our faculty, staff, students, and all of the people we serve through Extension and the 4-H Youth Development program to know they are welcomed, supported, and valued. We are dedicated to serving all Iowans.

We focus on feeding people, keeping them healthy, helping their communities prosper and thrive, and turning the world over to the next generation better than we found it. We will keep striving to make ISU Extension and Outreach more diverse and our programs more inclusive, and overall to make our organization, and the part of the world we influence, a place of justice for all.

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

Integrated Crop Management … times 30

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 26, 2018

2018 has been a challenging year for Iowa crop production, given difficult growing conditions, tight margins and uncertainty on trade issues. That is all the more reason for farm operators to make informed, research-based decisions to increase the likelihood for success. It’s no surprise that 900 farmers, agribusiness professionals, industry representatives and educators are coming to Ames Nov. 28-29 for the Integrated Crop Management Conference. It’s the 30th annual meeting of inquiring ag minds to network and learn about research findings and technology from across the Midwest. Did you know?

  • This year guest speakers will discuss in-field variability and effects on yield, digital technology in U.S. crop production, nitrogen needs and recommendations, tar spot in corn, and crop rotation and environmental stresses limiting corn and soybean yields.
  • The 2018 program also will include weather and crop market outlooks, selling cover crop seed, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, insect resistance to Bt crops, soybean gall midge, and weed and crop disease management updates.
  • New this year is the Women in Ag Breakfast, offering women attending the conference an opportunity to network, discuss common goals and challenges, and explore potential mentoring or programming ideas.
  • Last year attendees reported they had direct impact on 1.8 million acres of corn and soybeans, and estimated a profit increase of $5-10 per acre because of knowledge they gained from the conference.

ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences host the ICM conference, and every year bring together a diverse range of topics, a slate of expert presenters, and results of the latest university research to help Iowa agriculture thrive, no matter the challenges.

More notes

  • Our Women in Ag program’s conference, “The Conversations of Leadership,” is already in progress and continues tomorrow. Speakers and panelists are covering a variety of leadership topics from conflict resolution to farm transition decisions, career conversations and organizational leadership. All sessions are designed to build skills that enhance women’s leadership on and off the farm.
  • I will be visiting with campus-based extension staff and faculty today and again on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Both sessions are 3-4:30 p.m. in 3228 Memorial Union. Like my visits to all 20 regions, the primary purpose of these visits is to listen and learn, and gather input to inform our needs assessment and help us carry out our strategic plan.
  • The 2019 Annual Conference planning team needs your help. Please send your selfie to Rachel Tendall, rtendall@iastate.edu, by noon, Dec. 3. She’ll be compiling all the photos she receives into an ISU Extension and Outreach team portrait that will be revealed when the conference registration opens. Close-up photos are preferred, and feel free to show your personality.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshops are Dec. 4 and 5 in the Humboldt County office in Humboldt. Registration is open.
  • For an update on the Internal Communications Task Force Nov. 16 meeting, read the executive summary on Cybox.
  • The Structured for Success committee met Nov. 19. Check the website for a video report and related documents from the meeting.

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

Design thinking for place-based issues

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 22, 2018

What do Audubon, Bedford, Coggon, Durant, Mount Pleasant, Royal, Sumner, Treynor, Van Meter and Walcott have in common? They all will participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program over the next year. This is one of the ways our Community and Economic Development unit harnesses the power of design thinking to address place-based issues facing Iowa communities. Did you know?

  • The Iowa Department of Transportation sponsors the program in partnership with ISU Landscape Architecture Extension and Trees Forever.
  • To be considered for the program, communities must have a population of fewer than 10,000 residents, existing transportation-related issues, and a committee of volunteers willing to dedicate time and talent to the visioning process.
  • More than 230 communities have participated in Community Visioning since Iowa’s Living Roadways was created in 1996.

Each community will form a local steering committee representing a cross-section of local demographics, including youth. Beginning in November, these committees will work with extension specialists and other technical experts and participate in facilitated meetings, on-site assessments, technical design assistance, and public workshops – about 100 hours-worth over the next year. Each committee’s work will result in a transportation enhancement plan reflecting the community’s identity and values.

More notes

  • Our 2019 ISU Extension and Outreach Annual Conference is set for Feb. 28. Please save the date. Details will be available in the coming months.
  • You can still register for the next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents workshop, Oct. 30 in the Extension 4-H Building on campus in Ames.
  • More than 80 office professionals from throughout the state will be on campus Oct. 23-24 for the Office Professionals Conference. Office professionals are valued members of our extension family, and we’re pleased to provide this opportunity for professional development.
  • You can still share your ideas with our Internal Communications Task Force. Two new Community Conversations are being added: Nov. 5 in Ames and Nov. 9 in Garner. (To participate, register online at http://bit.ly/ictf11409.) You can send comments to ictfcomments@iastate.edu until Oct. 29. Some task force members still have dates available for individual discussions. Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey, which is open through Oct. 29. For an update on the task force’s Oct. 18 meeting, read the executive summary on Cybox.
  • The Structured for Success committee held meeting #2 on Thursday, Oct. 18. The agenda, summary notes and video are on the County Services website. Structured for Success now has a menu button on the navigation bar to make it easier to find.
  • Congratulations to Jennifer Bentley, Himar Hernandez and Courtney Long. They will represent ISU Extension and Outreach in the 2019 National Extension Leadership Development program. NELD participants are selected because of their proven track record of programmatic or administrative success.

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

For better communication

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 17, 2018

Sometimes we have trouble communicating with each other in our complex organization, and the challenge cuts across all our programs. That’s why in spring 2018 I appointed an internal communications task force, led by Deb Sellers and Ross Wilburn, to determine how we could improve communication within all of ISU Extension and Outreach.

The task force members – Deb and Ross along with Ann Torbert, Terry Torneten, Alex Merk, Andrea Nelson, Ben Pullen and Mary Giese – began their work without preconceived notions of the outcome. Instead, this group of our colleagues has been focused on listening. They want to develop strategies we can implement within our system to help us all do a better job of carrying out our mission. Did you know?

  • They are gathering information from across our system on barriers that impede, as well as ways to improve, our internal communication.
  • They want to ensure all voices are heard.
  • They will assess, evaluate and determine the most important issues for our system to address in the short- and long-term.
  • They will provide a final report with recommendations to the leadership team.

We all have a role in this effort. The task force is offering four ways for us to provide our feedback.

  1. Anyone in our system may send comments to ictfcomments@iastate.edu from now until Oct. 29.
  2. Task force members will facilitate four community conversations across the state on Sept. 25, Sept. 28, Oct. 3 and Oct. 8. If you would like to participate in a conversation, please register at http://bit.ly/11131ictf. Six to 12 individuals may participate per session and these conversations will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. If more than 12 people would like to participate at any one location, the task force will create a waiting list and determine whether another session can be offered.
  3. Each task force member has set aside one day to be available to meet by phone, Zoom or in-person with anyone in our system who would like to engage in an individual discussion. Please see the list of opportunities and contact the task force member to schedule a time to chat.
  4. Anyone in our system may anonymously complete an electronic survey, which will open in early October and close Oct. 29.

Please take a few minutes and participate, in whichever way works best for you. The more people who participate, the more valuable the task force’s report and recommendations will be for our organization.

Congratulations to our extension colleagues who received university awards on Sept. 14, including:

  • R.K. Bliss Extension Award, Jerry Chizek, Region 7 director.
  • Award for Distinguished Service in Extension, Beth Doran, beef field specialist.
  • Award for Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice, Alison Robertson, professor and extension field pathologist.
  • Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice, Lee Schulz, assistant professor and extension economist.
  • Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award, Sara Sprouse, human sciences specialist.
  • Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa, CED Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Team – Lisa Bates, Himar Hernandez, Victor Oyervides, Jill Sokness, Scott Timm and Jon Wolseth.

We also congratulate Ron Cox, director of CIRAS, who received an award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa. Many of you may know Ron, since CIRAS had been part of ISU Extension and Outreach before becoming part of the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations.

More notes

  • Wendy Wintersteen will be formally installed as president of Iowa State University Sept. 21 at Stephens Auditorium. Doors will open at 9:15 a.m. and the ceremony begins at 10:15 a.m. For those unable to attend in person, the installation will be livestreamed at www.iastate.edu.
  • Congratulations to Madison County, this year’s Cy Day Friday winner. They did a good job with community engagement and social media – check their Facebook page to see for yourself.
  • I’m visiting two regions this week: Sept. 17, Region 10; and Sept. 18, Region 11.

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

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