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.

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

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