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

Shared reporting is getting closer

John Lawrence’s message from March 11, 2019

I have good news to report – on reporting. For slightly more than a year and a half, a steering committee has been developing one Shared Reporting System for our entire organization. They have defined and aligned reporting terms, selected a database platform and hired a shared database coordinator. Construction of a practical, flexible and user-friendly database has steadily progressed, and this spring the committee will identify and invite three to five counties to voluntarily take the new shared system for a test drive. Did you know?

  • All campus, field and county staff who provide educational programming in the invited counties may volunteer to participate in the pilot.
  • Onsite user training will be scheduled at each of the invited counties, as well as on campus for the invited campus-based staff and faculty.
  • One guiding principle of the pilot is to take advantage of existing data collection processes and automatically bring them into the shared database when appropriate, such as registration data from Conference Planning and Management and participation data from 4HOnline.
  • Pilot participants’ feedback will be incorporated to make sure the final product meets as many county and program unit reporting needs as possible.
  • The pilot will continue for six to 12 months. Afterward, the committee will take the necessary time to incorporate required changes and develop appropriate professional development materials for the system-wide roll out.

The shared database will be rolled out in phases so it can be customized to the specific needs, uses and work cycles of ISU Extension and Outreach. Consequently, training for and timing of the database roll out likely will differ for each program unit and for county-based staff. If all goes as planned, the new database will be tested, tried and rolled out to the entire ISU Extension and Outreach system by January 2021. (If you want more background information about shared reporting, you can review my Everybody’s Job video message from September 2017.)

Tuition assistance available

As I said at Annual Conference, I am making tuition assistance available to all ISU Extension and Outreach staff for credit coursework that is consistent with their extension career path. My office will cover 50 percent of tuition (up to half the ISU tuition rate) for credit classes from Iowa State or other institutions beginning this spring. Details will be posted in the coming days.

Area meetings will be coming

I want to thank the Internal Communications Task Force for their 10 month research project. They officially presented the report at Annual Conference, and the leadership team will be reviewing the task force’s recommendations. In the meantime, as I said at conference, we are going to begin having quarterly area-wide county and field staff meetings. We’re dividing the state into five areas for meeting purposes only; this is not a reorganization and it is not another administrative layer. The boundaries aren’t fixed and they may change as our Structured for Success committee continues its work. There are more recommendations in the ICTF report and more steps to take, but this is a concrete action we can take now to improve communication in ISU Extension and Outreach. More details about these meetings will be available in the near future.

Insurance for county staff

Some of you left note cards after the Annual Conference panel discussion, or contacted me by email, wondering why we hadn’t discussed insurance for county staff. You correctly reminded me that it is an important topic and often was mentioned at the listening sessions. I apologize for not featuring it during the conference. I am working with County Services and Iowa Extension Council Association to evaluate alternatives and provide information to councils in the coming weeks. As you are aware, insurance is complex and costly, and will take careful preparation to move forward.

More notes

  • The 2019 Community Food Systems Annual Event is Friday, March 29 at the Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center in Des Moines. Keynote speakers are Sommer Sibily-Brown, founder and director of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, and Arthur Neal, deputy director for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. ISU Extension and Outreach Local Foods, Value Added Agriculture, and Community and Economic Development are sponsoring the event. Cost is $60; register by March 18. Contact Courtney Long, court7@iastate.edu, for more information.
  • Be sure to read the March program update from the leadership team for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • The Third Annual Extension Council Conference is March 30 in Ames. This conference is planned by councils for councils. Council members, county staff, regional directors and others who work with councils may attend. The early bird registration deadline is March 18.

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

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