Leadership based on place

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 3, 2018

Iowans care about the places where they live and work, whether small towns, big cities or somewhere in between. Our state’s communities are diverse and have varying needs. That’s why our Community and Economic Development program offers “Leading Communities: A Place-Based Leadership Program.” ISU Extension and Outreach and University of Wisconsin-Extension developed the program based on cutting-edge community leadership research. Our CED specialists are rolling it out across Iowa to revive community engagement and participation. Did you know?

  • Our specialists teach a specific curriculum, but clients organize the program at the local level – bringing together a steering committee, identifying participants and handling local logistics.
  • The program typically takes place over six months, with one three-hour training session each month. Educational materials are learner-centered and structured to create a collaborative learning environment.
  • Participants learn about the importance of community leadership. They build skills and core competencies so they can address local issues and opportunities.
  • Some places opt to include a community project or a local networking opportunity during the process. In these cases, an approved ISU educator delivers the program and works with a local partner to offer the additional components.

Leading Communities helps Iowans develop social relationships, social capital, shared understandings and collaborative efforts. Iowa State research has shown that these community characteristics are critical for economic development and quality of life in our state. CED specialists are currently delivering the program in Henry and Lee counties. They’ve also taught it in Buena Vista and Kossuth counties. To learn more, contact Deborah Tootle, dmtootle@iastate.edu, or Brian Perry, bmperry@iastate.edu.

More notes

  • Congratulations to Julie Weeks, who has been named the Ames Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year. Julie serves as president and CEO of Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau and ISU Extension and Outreach Conference Planning and Management. Julie and her team build relationships and provide quality service as they promote Ames and Iowa State as “the destination” for group tours, conferences, meetings and events. Their efforts result in many thousands of people visiting Ames and Iowa State each year.
  • I will be visiting with campus-based extension staff and faculty on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 3-4:30 p.m. in 3228 Memorial Union. The purpose is to listen and learn, and gather input to inform our needs assessment and help us carry out our strategic plan.
  • The next “Creating Accessible Digital Documents” workshop is Dec. 10 on campus. Registration is open.
  • The ISU Extension and Outreach Awards nomination deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. Check the awards website for the list of awards, eligibility and criteria, and nomination forms. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible, as are volunteers and extension councils. The awards will be presented during annual conference.
  • The Excellence in Extension grants submissions deadline is noon, Jan. 4, 2019. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees (campus, field and county) are eligible. Individual grant information and application instructions are online. If you have questions about the grants or application, contact Alison Boelman, aboelman@iastate.edu.
  • Interactive training sessions for extension council members will be hosted at several sites across Iowa beginning Dec. 8, with additional dates in December and January. All dates and locations feature the same training. All newly elected council members, current council members and county extension staff are invited to attend. Registration is open.

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

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

A challenge for healthy living

John Lawrence’s message from Aug. 6, 2018

A lot of people recently completed a race across Iowa. No, I don’t mean RAGBRAI; that’s a ride and this year the route covered only 428 miles. I’m talking about a greater challenge that had more than 2,000 4-H’ers and staff crisscrossing the state (figuratively, anyway) and earning up to 3,000 “miles” as they made changes for healthier living – for themselves, their families and their communities. From Nov. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, these folks competed in the 4-H Race Across Iowa, a healthy living club challenge. Did you know?

  • The route connected a community in each extension region, starting in Region 1 and zigzagging across the state to Region 17, covering 1,400 miles (according to Google Maps). Clubs were challenged to earn at least 1,400 miles during the eight months of competition.
  • Clubs earned miles by setting goals and completing challenges at their monthly club meetings, gaining 75 miles for offering water, 100 miles for having fruit or vegetables as a snack, and 125 miles for coordinated or structured physical activity.
  • Bonus challenges involved other areas of wellness and well-being, including social (teambuilding), emotional (brain and mental health), and community outreach by engaging others in healthy living. For example, the KW Hustlers from Clarke County made potted gardens as gifts for food pantry patrons. Riverside Rockets from Fremont County were “Health Heroes” in a local parade, promoting the benefits of healthy choices to their community. Jackson Wise Owls from Jones County built raised garden beds for a care center so residents in wheelchairs could tend to the garden.
  • 4-H healthy living specialist Laura Liechty said 127 clubs and county extension office staff teams from 42 counties participated, and 71 reached at least 1,400 miles; 10 clubs reached the maximum 3,000 miles. All participating clubs are invited to a recognition event during 4-H Healthy Living Day Aug. 11 in the 4-H Exhibits Building at the Iowa State Fair.

4-H healthy living programming focuses not only on physical well-being practices, such as nutrition and exercise, but also encompasses all areas of wellness and well-being, as young people learn to make healthy life choices. This 4-H Race Across Iowa may have been imaginary, but the 4-H’ers’ enthusiasm for pledging their health to better living is real.

Interim 4-H leadership

Iowa 4-H has recently undergone a leadership transition. Andrea Nelson, director of Region 13, will serve as interim program leader while a national search is conducted for a permanent successor. Andrea has served in a variety of leadership roles with ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County and Region 13. In addition to working directly with Iowa 4-H, she also served as county youth coordinator, where she managed a network of 200 adult volunteers to provide educational experiences for urban Polk County youth. Andrea brings more than 15 years of experience building working relationships with individuals and groups inside and outside of ISU Extension and Outreach. As a regional director, she has experience with both urban and rural counties and has served on numerous state committees. Under Andrea’s leadership, 4-H Youth Development at Iowa State University will continue its long and successful record of engaging young people across the state.

More notes

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

Shrinking smart … and thriving

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 11, 2017

Some small Iowa communities are losing population, but that doesn’t mean they are withering away. Some of them are thriving. You might say they are shrinking smart. That’s the terminology used by an NSF-funded multidisciplinary team (from architecture, computer science, planning and sociology) in their new publication, “Shrink-Smart Small Towns.” (You can download the complete report from the Extension Store.) Authored by David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist, and Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture, the report discusses the reasons some communities are still thriving as they lose population. Did you know?

  • This study looked at one randomly selected Iowa community per county with a population of at least 500 but under 10,000, not adjacent to a major city.
  • Towns were classified as growing or shrinking and as smart or poor by comparing change in population with change in quality of life. The study identified 12 shrink-smart towns.
  • Peters found that shrink-smart towns are tied to agriculture and have grown their industrial employment base. However, shrink-smart towns also have diverse and inclusive social linkages. Residents participate more in local projects and belong to more organizations. Overall, these communities foster a culture of openness to new ideas and support of others.

The first thing shrinking towns can do to improve their quality of life is focus on their social infrastructure, Peters says. Bridge the divides across economic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and even between newcomers and long-time residents. Encourage folks to join organizations and get involved in local projects. These actions involve leadership and human capital rather than brick, mortar and smokestacks. They don’t cost much to implement, but the pay back is significant. And, leadership and capacity building is something that ISU Extension and Outreach does very well. The research team, lead by Zarecor, is in the process of interviewing residents and leaders in select shrink-smart towns to identify best practices that can be used by other communities across Iowa. Visit the project website for details.

A few more notes

  • Make sure to review the December program update from the leadership team.
  • The county fair partnership agreement materials are available online. The template will assist counties in having discussions between Extension, Fair Boards and FFA as they develop their own agreement tailored to their county fair needs.
  • The Faces of Iowa State exhibit has begun touring the state, and the first stop is the Maquoketa Art Experience. If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet (or even if you have), check it out while it’s on the road during the next year.

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

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