Which came first — the chicken or the egg? How about the client or the college?
In 1991, ISU Extension restructured at the program level into client-centered units. We would first identify the needs of our clients and then develop appropriate educational programs to meet their needs — not the other way around. No acting as the ivory tower experts deciding what was best. Instead, we would extend the university to meet Iowans’ real needs. We even started calling our programs Extension to Agriculture, Extension to Business and Industry, Extension to Communities, Extension to Youth and 4-H, and Extension to Families.
When we began thinking of Iowans as our clients, we started placing higher value on their experience and expectations. Over the years we adjusted and fine-tuned as we worked to better identify their needs or even who our clients are, and expanded our efforts throughout the university — and we changed some names along the way. Extension to Agriculture became Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) became our main outreach to Iowa manufacturing and industry. Extension to Communities became Community and Economic Development. Extension to Youth and 4-H became 4-H Youth Development. And now Extension to Families is becoming Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. It’s not that we stopped being client-centered, it’s that we recognized it’s only one part of the equation which defines our work.
Our programs for Iowa families will continue to focus on improving nutrition and health, parenting and caregiving, and personal finance, as well as reducing poverty. However, we’ll broaden our activities to encompass all academic areas in the college, as well as emphasize STEM education, health and wellness, economic development, and food and environment. We’re extending even more of Iowa State to Iowans as we expand our ability to provide research-based education that meets their needs.
The chicken or the egg is a causality dilemma – it points out the futility of attempting to identify the first case of a circular cause and consequence. It’s not a chicken or egg question; which came first doesn’t matter. What really counts is that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach provides research-based educational programs and develops diverse and meaningful partnerships to create significant impact in Iowa. By definition, Extension and Outreach is client centered and college connected. See you there.