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

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

Everybody’s job

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 25, 2017

Say what you’ll do, do what you say and prove it with numbers. That’s a basic premise of quality management, and it is top of mind as we strive to maintain and improve the quality of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It’s everybody’s job, in every part of our organization, to create and share the value and impact of our work. So we’re taking action to get better at sharing our story. Did you know?

  • Our updated ISU Extension and Outreach strategic plan will be ready sometime this fall.
  • A steering committee is working on developing one reporting system for our entire organization.
  • We’re developing resources for public value training.

Learn more in this video message about our strategic plan, our reporting system and our public value.

still image from John Lawrence video

County Stakeholder Reports

Each fall we ask county offices to create county stakeholder reports highlighting programs with significant local impact. These reports are a good way to help citizens, stakeholders and decision makers understand how we connect the needs of Iowans with Iowa State University research and resources. Our goal is to have all the 2017 reports completed by Jan. 1, 2018, before the start of the next legislative session. In the meantime, you can review the 2016 county stakeholder reports online.

Need Input on County Fair MOU template

A couple of weeks ago I shared that a committee representing ISU Extension and Outreach, county fairs and FFA is drafting a template/checklist to help local leaders develop their own county fair MOU. We’re sharing one video message with the three groups at the same time about the process underway and we’re asking everyone for input on what the template/checklist should include. If you have input for the committee, please contact one of these ISU Extension and Outreach representatives before Nov. 1:

  • Bryan Whaley, Region 2 Director, bwhaley@iastate.edu, 515-341-6967
  • Joe Sellers, Beef Field Specialist, sellers@iastate.edu, 641-774-2016
  • Nancy Adrian, Washington County Extension Director, nadrian@iastate.edu, 319-653-4811
  • Mandy Maher, Fremont County Program Coordinator, mmaher@iastate.edu, 712-374-2351
  • Annette Brown, 4-H Youth Program Specialist, annbrown@iastate.edu, 515-432-3882
  • Bob Dodds, Assistant VP, County Services, redodds@iastate.edu, 515-294-0013
  • John Lawrence, Interim VP for Extension and Outreach, jdlaw@iastate.edu, 515-294-6675

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

Aware and prepared

John Lawrence’s message from June 12, 2017

When I took on this interim role, I inherited a top notch leadership team. We’ve been working together for the last few years and I feel very comfortable with them. Last week we had our spring leadership retreat at a park in Story City. But unlike the park’s colorful carousel, we were not going round in circles. We focused on keeping ISU Extension and Outreach moving forward.

We spent the majority of our time on our ISU Extension and Outreach strategic plan and determining what changes we want and how to have it fit with the new university strategy plan. The ISU strategic plan embraces the Land Grant ideals of higher education open to all, providing practical learning and sharing knowledge and discoveries. The mission statement is direct and to the point: Create, share and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place. That is in our wheelhouse and a mission we can support.

The university plan calls on ISU Extension and Outreach specifically in Goal 3: Improve the quality of life for all Iowans through services and programs dedicated to economic development and the promotion of healthy communities, people and environments. We will share this responsibility with the office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, and there are specific sub goals we will address and indicators to track. It is what we do and I am excited to showcase our activities and impacts.

Another part of the university strategic plan is Goal 4: Continue to enhance and cultivate the ISU Experience where faculty, staff, students and visitors are safe, and feel welcomed, supported, included and valued by the university and each other. ISU Extension and Outreach is a people organization and our success depends on having great people working in a supportive environment to develop and deliver programming for people of Iowa and beyond. Our strategic plan will address Goal 4 as well.

Speaking of great people doing amazing things, I rely on the leadership team to make sure I am well informed about what’s happening throughout our organization. In particular, the program directors give me monthly updates so I have a ready supply of current program information and statistics to share with stakeholders, partners and decision makers. I want to share these updates with all of you as well, and I’ll start with Community and Economic Development. Did you know?

  • In his new publication “What Drives Quality of Life in Iowa Small Towns?” David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist, discusses what towns can do to attract new residents, as well as what pushes people away.
  • The data on quality of life and social conditions are from the Sigma Study, a long-term USDA-funded research effort in Iowa. Residents of 99 small towns (population between 500 and 6,000) were surveyed in 1994, 2004 and 2014 and were asked to subjectively rank their community on things like overall quality of life, jobs, medical services, schools, housing, child and senior services, retail and entertainment.
  • Peters found that the strongest drivers of quality of life were social capital and civic measures – whether residents participate in the community and whether the community provides social supports. These factors are within a community’s control and don’t cost a lot of money. The degree to which people participate in the community and feel safe, supported and trusted, is something a community can take action on.

To see the rest of this month’s updates from the program directors, check the June 2017 Program Update on my Did You Know blog. Each month we’ll post these updates on the blog and I’ll let you know when they’re available.

It’s good for all of us to be aware of what’s going on elsewhere in our organization, so we’re prepared. For example, a farm couple may contact a county extension office concerned about weeds in their fields or their cattle not performing properly. But after talking with the couple, an extension professional may discover they’re also dealing with financial concerns, family stress, problems at school or issues in the community – and can connect them to whatever extension assistance they need.

That’s always been one of our strengths. Even those early short courses that R.K. Bliss wrote about in his history book included agriculture, home economics (which became human sciences), youth programming and community development. From the beginning we were doing comprehensive, integrated, education and outreach. Whether we’re serving farmers or families, kids or communities, being aware and prepared with a comprehensive approach is our niche.

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

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.