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Fair Winds and Following Seas

This week found me attending the naming ceremony for the fifth USS Iowa. It will be one of the Navy’s newest Virginia Class attack submarines. As someone who came here from the Pentagon, with two Air Force veteran parents, and a brother who was a career submariner in the Navy, these moments mean a lot to me.

I’ve mentioned a few times the important role Iowa has played in our nation and the world with our forward-thinking people. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus reminded me that ships bearing our state name also are similarly distinguished. The previous USS Iowa BB-61 was known as the Battleship of Presidents and carried Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to meet with Prime Minister Churchill and Josef Stalin. The first Iowa was a gunboat dating back to 1864. The second Iowa fired the first shot at Santiago Bay in the Spanish-American War.

Last Saturday, I was up in Forest City for Operation LZ to officially welcome back Iowa’s Vietnam and Vietnam era veterans and thank them. I learned about the distinguished service of some of Iowa’s veterans and their selflessness. Iowans have a long history of showing up, serving others, and being pretty humble about it. That’s certainly what I find with my colleagues and partners with Extension and Outreach, too.

As summer fair and field day season winds down and fall programs gear up, it may be easy to feel overwhelmed with all we have to do. Maybe it’s the nature of extension work, or maybe it’s our desire to give our all to help Iowans. I understand that, but I also know that along with meeting the needs of Iowans, we have to take care of ourselves. Vietnam veteran and POW Larry Spencer, speaking at Operation LZ, said that when you get down, remember if there’s a doorknob on your side of the door, it’s a good day. See you there.

— Cathann

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @cathannkress.

Our First Name

A lot of people know me by just my first name – family, friends, and colleagues at many levels. I’m often the only Cathann they know. The name’s a bit unusual. I was the first girl born in my father’s family after nearly two generations of boys. My parents put it together to honor Catherine and Annie, two family matriarchs whom, let’s face it, no one wanted to tick off.

I’ve had times when it was inconvenient or difficult to have such a name, such as the many times I’ve had to help people pronounce or spell it: No, it’s not Caitlin, Cathleen, Chatham, or Calhoun. Over time, I’ve discovered that there are two main ways to pronounce it (CATH-ann or ca-THANN). When I was younger, I resented that I could never find a personalized pen, necklace, or bike tag with my name emblazoned on it. It also could be cumbersome. I recall quite vividly that it took me a long time to get even one “Cathann Arceneaux” written during penmanship class in elementary school, while “Joe Fry” sitting next to me whipped through about ten repetitions of his name. And yes, it has often been shortened to “Cathy” or “Annie” or “Cat” or “Hanna.”

However, mostly I’ve loved my name, because of what it represents and because our names say a lot about who we are.

I’ve noticed the same thing with Extension and Outreach. Some people aren’t sure what to call us, given our 100 county offices, our program areas, and our many campus units and departments. It can be cumbersome to manage all the parts of our names.  We have a multitude of nicknames. However, one person who is sure is Jeff Johnson, president and CEO of the Iowa State University Alumni Association. According to Jeff, whatever your place in this organization, “Iowa State University is your first name.”

“Cardinal and gold aren’t everybody’s colors, but they’re our colors. If it wasn’t for Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach wouldn’t exist – not the other way around,” Jeff said. He isn’t asking us to become Iowa State cheerleaders. Rather, we’re partners, working together in the business of higher education.

We are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach whether we identify with a campus unit, a college department, or a county office or a specific program anywhere in the state. We are a capacity-building unit of Iowa State, providing access to education, developing diverse and meaningful partnerships, and creating significant impact throughout our state. We even have the personalized pens. It’s a first name we all can be proud of because of what it represents. See you there.

— Cathann

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @cathannkress.

I Like Pie

When my daughter Wren was in second grade, her class began studying mottos and proverbs—words of wisdom, truth, or morals based on common sense or practical experience. Our dinner conversations were sprinkled with sayings such as Money doesn’t grow on trees, or The early bird catches the worm. To finish the lesson, each student created a poster of a favorite saying. There were many drafts as Wren sat at her desk, crayon-scribing words to live by.

The night of the school open house arrived and we strolled through the classroom reading posters extolling honesty, planning ahead, and other virtues. And then I saw it—a large drawing of a pie with big, red cherries popping out of it, and underneath, the carefully drawn letters spelled out Wren’s words to live by: I like pie.

Now some would think Wren missed the point. At first I thought so, too. After all, a motto about pie? But then Wren came home and started pestering me to teach her to bake pies. She started with pumpkin, mastered cherry; then moved on to lemon meringue. Now, at 13, she is known for her pies. Her poster, indeed, offered words to live by. Because Wren doesn’t just like eating pie; she wants to share pie with others.

Guy Kawasaki says there are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want more of the one pie that currently exists; bakers want to make more pie so everyone can have some. If you’re an eater, you believe whoever gets the biggest slice wins. A baker is concerned about making sure everyone gets to eat.

In Extension and Outreach, we are making more pie- as it were. Last week, I announced the Strategic Initiatives funding for four projects and this week, we received word on the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. House and Senate negotiators reached agreement and will keep most of our Extension programs funded at their FY 2011 levels, rather than the 12-15% cuts predicted. The conference report is expected to be approved in both chambers within the next few days and sent to the President for his signature. We owe a huge thank you to many of our friends who spoke up about our work and convinced legislators that Extension and Outreach in Iowa serves as a baker- assembling all the right ingredients- from various sources- and making sure everyone gets a piece.

In ISU Extension, we strengthen our partnerships and create win-win outcomes. We listen carefully to what our partners need and want, and we find where that overlaps with our mission. It’s not about just eating pie; it’s about sharing what it takes to make pie for everyone. See you there.

–Cathann