A letter to the family

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 4, 2018

It has been a soggy Labor Day weekend across much of Iowa and the forecast is for more rain. Labor Day is the unofficial transition from summer to fall. Many folks try to squeeze in one more picnic or campout, and others welcome the start of football season. The rain dampened both of these activities.

Labor Day also is a time to honor the workers who keep our economy and country moving. I particularly want to recognize the dedicated members of our ISU Extension and Outreach team in the 100 county offices, in the field and on campus. The more I learn about our organization and our people, the prouder and more humbled I am to serve you. I ask all of us as councils and colleagues to take the time to say thank you to the men and women of ISU Extension and Outreach for a job well done. THANK YOU!

I also want to start a discussion about how ISU Extension and Outreach is organized in the counties and the county-to-campus connection. This topic should not be a surprise, as it was part of my interview presentation. I talked about it at the Iowa Extension Council Association (IECA) board meeting in July, and it has been discussed at some of my listening sessions around the state. However, I want to be sure everyone is in the loop. I also want to stress that this is the start of a discussion, not the final word.

Terry Maloy, IECA executive director, Bob Dodds, assistant vice president for County Services, and I met in mid-August to start the study process. A committee involving county councils and staff, state staff and administration will begin meeting in late September. That committee will formalize the path forward, but I expect that we will:

  • review our current and previous organizational structures, how extension in other states operates, and other public and private sector models;
  • identify the important functions that must occur for ISU Extension and Outreach to successfully fulfill its mission, and consider by whom and how those functions are covered; and
  • estimate implications for staff and budgets of counties and Iowa State.

Over the next 12 months, the committee will identify a small number of promising models and share the strengths and weaknesses of each. Next fall, armed with this information, I hope that some counties are willing to partner with Iowa State to implement one or more of these models.

I realize that talk about change makes people anxious, but I would rather be open about the discussion and intent than secretive. Once the committee members are named, we will share their contact information. The committee will provide updates as we meet and there will be opportunities for you to provide input. Change is seldom simple and individuals may be impacted. I encourage you to watch for updates, participate when asked and help the committee gather the information to help all of us make informed decisions.

Thank you for all you do for ISU Extension and Outreach.

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

Time for a visit – or 20

John Lawrence’s message from June 11, 2018

“Forward planning has been one of the strong features of Iowa’s extension work.” Did you know? That’s a quote from R.K. Bliss. It’s from his extension history book published in 1960. It’s a quote that would be accurate at any time in our history, as well as our present day and as we look ahead to our future. In ISU Extension and Outreach we plan ahead, but we don’t do it alone. We need to hear from the people we serve.

As I mentioned during annual conference, I intend to visit every extension region in the state to learn from staff, extension council members and stakeholders. I’m starting next week with the four corners of the state:

  • June 18, Region 4, Ossian
  • June 20, Region 1, Sheldon
  • June 21, Region 17, Malvern
  • June 25, Region 20, Mt. Pleasant

During each visit, I will meet with staff, council members, and stakeholders, and briefly share news about some of our great work. The primary purpose of these visits is to listen to and learn from each group, and to gather input to inform our needs assessment and help us carry out our strategic plan. I know many people across the state and hope to strengthen those relationships, but just as important, I want to establish new connections. I appreciate the work you all do every day to engage with Iowans and this is a chance for me to learn more about your work, challenges and opportunities. I look forward to our discussions.

The regional directors are handling the invitations and working with Advancement and staff from the host counties to make sure our guests feel welcome and informed. I thank them for their efforts to make these visits meaningful for everyone involved.

We’ll work the bugs out of the process with these four regions, and then plan visits for the rest of the regions, working around county centennials, county fairs, and other events on my schedule. I will keep you informed as plans develop.

More notes

  • Make sure to review the June program update from the leadership team.
  • Team PrISUm is taking Iowa State’s solar car for a drive June 11-20 for the annual SunRun. The team will visit 17 counties to promote STEM education and get communities excited about sustainable transportation. Team PrISUm is working with 13 county extension offices to coordinate stops at 4-H STEM camps and other extension events during SunRun.

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

Strong partnerships for prevention

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 30, 2017

Each partnership is stronger than the one before: That is the model for the work Human Sciences Extension and Outreach does with the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State. This successful working relationship began in the 1990s, with interventions designed to address youth substance abuse and other problem behaviors. As they’ve increased competencies in families and youth, their work has led to a robust research base and international acclaim. Did you know?

  • Human sciences specialists, county staff and community members have led the internationally renowned “Iowa Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14” since the early 1990s. SFP 10-14 is evidence-based, which means we have the research to prove it gets results.
  • Experience with earlier projects led to PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). These partnerships make it easier to deliver scientifically tested interventions and promote youth competence. Several human sciences specialists spend about 20 percent of their time as prevention coordinators in PROSPER counties.
  • Mackenzie Johnson, a human sciences specialist in family life, is working with PROSPER staff to update the “Family Matters” curriculum, which will be used with two PROSPER projects. She will help the team remain true to the core components of the evidence of the curriculum while updating it to be engaging and usable for today’s parents.
  • Specialists Sara Sprouse, Joyce Lash, Mackenzie Johnson and Lori Hayungs recently were trained in the “Universal Prevention Curriculum.” The goal of the series is to ensure effective delivery of prevention interventions. PROSPER offered this opportunity to our staff in appreciation for the partnership Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has with PPSI.

It is more effective to prevent substance abuse and other problem behaviors before they begin, than to try to stop them after they start. It’s not rocket science; it’s prevention science – and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach is a key partner in sustaining these efforts.

A few more notes

  • Iowa State University has a new president, with a close extension connection. Wendy Wintersteen began her career as a field agronomist in east central Iowa, served as an integrated pest management extension associate and worked her way up with leadership positions in ISU Extension and Outreach, as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We look forward to working with ISU President-Select Wintersteen. (Her official start date is Nov. 20. See the news release and her first message to the Iowa State community.)
  • The application deadline for the 2018 Rising Star Internship program is Nov. 1. For a reminder of why we support this program, watch this video: some of our 2017 Rising Star Interns share their stories.
  • Congratulations to Iowa State’s Women’s and Men’s Cross Country Teams winning the Big XII championship, Women’s Volleyball knocking off #11 Kansas and the Football victory over the second top 5 team in a month. All in Homecoming week!

— 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

County events, offices and councils

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 24, 2017

One of the perks of this job I’ve noticed so far is an open invitation to county events. In the past week I attended Mahaska County’s 100th anniversary celebration dinner, Polk County’s 100th anniversary open house and Worth County’s open house at their new office. The hamburgers were great (Thanks, Mahaska County Cattlemen!), the rain didn’t put a damper on Polk’s party and Worth gave me my first official ribbon cutting (without the ribbon). I always enjoy meeting with our partners, staff and council members. At Annual Conference I asked you to invite me out, and I thank you for taking me up on it. Linda Brinkmeyer makes sure everything fits on my dance card, so keep those invitations coming.

Over my 25 years with ISU Extension and Outreach I have visited many of the county offices for meetings and discussions with producers. My wife and I also visited each office over a three year period and have a picture with our motorcycle in front of each ISU Extension and Outreach XXXXXXX County sign. Check out our quest on our Facebook page. We are the Fallen Clovers Chapter. (Disclaimer: This is a private Facebook page, not an official ISU Extension and Outreach page.)

Never forget that our county extension councils enable us to do great things. Did you know?

  • Iowa has had elected county extension councils since the 1955 County Agricultural Extension Law.
  • The Iowa Extension Council Association helps our councils have a greater impact and voice for issues being addressed by local and state government.
  • The Extension Council Training Academy offers individual and group training to increase council members’ knowledge and effectiveness.
  • Through the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program, county extension councils are investing in new research with Iowa State. For example, the Calhoun County Extension Council is partnering on a project to test how a virtual singing group intervention could be replicated across the state to help Iowans with Parkinson’s disease.

This year Bob Dodds and Cathann Kress started videotaping “Conversations with Council Members.” Bob and I plan to continue these quarterly updates for council members on new products, announcements and upcoming events. With the continuing partnership of our county extension councils, together we can achieve what we all want: a strong Iowa.

Congratulations to our Extension and Outreach colleagues on receiving University Awards.

  • Donna Donald, Human Sciences: ISU Award for Distinguished Service in Extension
  • Russ Euken, ANR: ISU R.K. Bliss Extension Award
  • Bailey Hanson, CED: ISU Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice

Be sure to congratulate them on their recognition and contribution to what makes our organization great.

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

From our 2016 Annual Report

John Lawrence’s Monday Message from April 10, 2017

In my first few days as acting vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach, I have found myself thinking of Garrison Keillor’s opening line to his monologue: “Well it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” While it may have been quiet for the regulars working under the green dome, to a newbie it sure seemed hectic. I moved into 2150 Beardshear on Saturday, April 1, and haven’t seen much of the office since. I am finishing a few things in my ANR position and sorting emails in the appropriate direction, all while getting up to speed about my new role on the ISU Extension and Outreach team.

Some of the things I’ve learned are from the 2016 Annual Report for ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • More than 1 million people directly benefit from our programs each year. That’s one in three Iowans.
  • About 100,000 4-H youth are building skills for college and career readiness. That’s nearly 20 percent of all Iowa K-12 youth.
  • We support online courses for 50,000 users. They’d nearly fill Jack Trice Stadium – if, of course, they were here rather than online.
  • More than 16,000 volunteers partner with us – more than a sell-out crowd at Hilton Coliseum.
  • We reach more than 4 million with our digital presence. That’s four times the number of direct contacts.

We didn’t achieve these big wins on our own. Our 900 locally elected extension council members are right there with us, working for a strong Iowa. Their partnership is essential to our 99 county campus.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind this week:

  • Performance reviews for 2016 must be completed by April 15, 2017.
  • Proposals are due April 17 for innovation and sustainability projects. We’ll be awarding four grants of $2,500 each. Download the RFP from the See You There blog.
  • The Iowa History 101 Mobile Museum will be coming to a county near you sometime in the next three years. Watch our video about the museum’s stop at annual conference, and learn how we’ll be working with the State Historical Society of Iowa on this project.

Well, one week down, not that I’m counting. I’m in this for as long of a haul as necessary. Early reports indicate I haven’t dropped the ball so far, and that’s thanks to all of you. Because in ISU Extension and Outreach, we all keep each other at the top of our game.

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

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