Author Archives: maggiebethel

MSU Extension embarks on issue identification process

The Issue Identification Team, formed after Fall Extension Conference (FEC) 2014, has been busy developing a process that will be used by our organization in coming months. One of the areas for improvement discussed at FEC was building a healthier organization by listening to our customers. Here is an update on the process under design.

What is the Issues Identification Process? An “Issues ID” process is part of a needs assessment that Extension professionals use to identify priority program opportunities for Extension’s future focus. Our goal is to better understand program needs and issues that are facing constituents in order to focus our limited resources to better address needs, while staying true to our mission. The process in Michigan will cover the needs of both Michigan State University Extension and AgBioResearch.

The Process: Working with our state advisory network of district Extension councils to guide the public input process, priority program opportunities for Extension’s future focus will be identified. In addition, with the leadership of District Council members, we envision gaining a better understanding of opportunities to partner in communities, to shift resources, or meet current, emerging and currently unmet needs.

Issues ID Sessions: Council members will conduct one or more sessions in each district throughout the state using a nominal group process. Council members will work with staff to identify community stakeholders and leaders to attend sessions. Council members will assume leadership roles at the sessions including facilitating, moderating small groups, recording, greeting, and other roles. An issues identification session includes:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Recording ideas
  3. Discussing ideas
  4. Voting on ideas

Each district will be given all necessary instructions, training and materials to help ensure a successful and standardized approach is used throughout the state.

Assembling Input: Councils may hold more than one process in their districts if they choose. If that is the case, they will need to incorporate all the feedback from the sessions into one set of priorities reported to MSU Extension. They will be provided a template to prepare the report. It is the District Council’s prerogative to settle on the final priority list that is submitted.

Time Line: The Issues ID process will begin in fall 2015 and conclude in February 2016. It is expected that the District Council’s report will be submitted upon completion of the process. MSU Extension leadership will need the reports no later than the beginning of March 2016 to meet the deadline.

What is the Role of Staff? District coordinators are taking the lead in preparing the council membership for their role in conducting the sessions. That said, there are a number of ways staff can be involved. The participants for the process must be a well-rounded group of constituents and community leaders. District coordinators will be asking for staff input on recruiting names and participation to ensure a diverse cross section of interests and backgrounds. Constituents representing the interests of AgBioResearch should also be included. Your district coordinator may call on some of you to assist in preparing the council for its session with a trial session or brainstorming session. When the actual session(s) is(are) held in your district, staff is encouraged to attend if at all possible. You will be attending this session as a listener, not as a participant. Following the session, when the council has formulated its prioritized report, the district coordinator will hold a session to review the outcomes with staff members in their district. You will also review reports as institute work team members.

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Filed under Fall Extension Conference

Happy Holidays from the Director’s Office!

While many of us are settling into vacations after the inevitable flurries of end-of-the-year due dates, I wanted to send you all one last Spotlight for 2014. You have a lot to be proud of this year, as we’ve worked to transition through administration changes and at the same time focus on building an organizational culture that reflects the values we live by every day.

Coming back to Michigan State University Extension for these past six months has been an honor and a privilege for me. As I’ve said before, Extension has been part of my life for many years, and being asked to come back into the role of director was just like coming home.

A lot has happened in six months, but these are some of the things I’d like to highlight as the great work you’ve all done in that time:

  • Michigan 4-H received a grant to fund a volunteer recruitment campaign – the final numbers of new volunteers aren’t yet in, but the increased visibility for Michigan 4-H was a huge opportunity for MSU Extension. Thank you to everyone who helped push out the messages and handle additional intake in your offices – it was a team effort and your hard work across the board is what made it possible.
  • Leaders in Michigan’s food and agriculture industry are feeling positive about food and agriculture in Michigan. The results of the recent Michigan Agriculture and Food Index (MAFI) reflect their optimistic outlook. In addition, their confidence in our state’s economy overall is climbing. The Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) as well as your consumer outreach is helping the producers feel like they have a bright future in Michigan.
  • As part of our Civil Rights review that took place over the summer, we proved that we are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender, which is a step in the right direction toward our value of diversity.
  • We all contributed to an important conversation about what is strong and what needs work in the organizational culture of MSU Extension. I’m excited to see us all work towards the goals that we laid out in Fall Extension Conference this year, and hope that we can continue to add more “color” to our future.

Whatever holidays you’re celebrating as the year draws to a close, I hope that you’re spending them relaxing with your families and friends. Reflect on the great work you’ve done this year and the exciting plans you have in store for next year. I will be handing the reigns over to Ray Hammerschmidt as your new interim director on January 1, and I know that I am leaving you in capable hands. We have an extremely competent administrative team and you are all a very talented work force! It’s been a privilege to work with you all again, and look forward to seeing many of you in the new year as I transition into working with the District Councils. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Update on the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Director

Another important transition in Michigan State University Extension has been in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI). Ray Hammerschmidt has been acting as the interim institute director since July 1. The search is on for the permanent institute director, as Ray moves into his new role as the director of MSU Extension on January 1, 2015.

The position announcement has closed. The search committee, chaired by Dr. Jim Kells, will evaluate the applicants, and interviews will likely be held in early January. Hopefully we will soon have an announcement for our permanent institute director. Good luck to all of the candidates!

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness

New Commissioner Trainings educate county commissioners

Last week, our Michigan State University Extension educators finished up their New Commissioner Trainings across the state, partnering with the Michigan Association of Counties. Six separate sessions took place. Locations included Big Rapids, Kalamazoo, Gaylord, Escanaba, Novi and Frankenmuth. Julie Pioch, John Amrhein, Mark Skidmore, Eric Scorsone, Kurt Schindler, Brad Neumann and Terry Gibb taught the sessions.

The county is an important partner of MSU Extension, so it’s an opportunity to highlight our training abilities right from the get-go and provide an example of a quality educational program. It is also the only training opportunity that county commissioners have in this position.

From maintaining records of property ownership to issuing marriage licenses to collecting and distributing taxes to providing a functional and effective justice system, county government is responsible for handling a diverse array of functions for Michigan residents. Every two years, the citizens elect county commissioners to develop policy and provide financial oversight to all aspects of county government. The role of a county commissioner is well defined by statute; however, understanding the relationships between the county board and other elected officials and department heads is very complicated. We are training commissioners so that they understand their roles within the complex system of county government.

This is MSU Extension’s 46th year doing this program.

According to Julie Pioch, they’ve “attempted over time to make the program more interactive and to provide time for the commissioners to network with each other and learn from the more experienced commissioners by asking questions. The content changes with issues relevant to county government.”

Attending the workshops were 178 out of the 622 Michigan county commissioners. Attendees included a high percentage of newly elected officials, who felt more prepared to take on their new positions after this training.

When asked what they will do differently after attending the workshop, one participant wrote, “I will go in office being more of an asset now. I can hit the ground running and know better the questions I need to ask.”

Our county commissioners continue to depend on us for training of new commissioners, and this training is a great way to keep our communities strong!

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Filed under Greening Michigan

Wayne County 4-H’ers win national prize

One of the amazing things about 4-H is that it gives young people an opportunity to change the world. As part of the Fish Farm Challenge Video Contest, Wayne County 4-H’ers Gary Payne and Corbin Nelson took on the challenge of world hunger by putting together a 90-second video to answer the question: “How can YOU make a difference in your community regarding food security and hunger?” The contest was sponsored by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto. Gary and Corbin’s video was selected as the contest winner in the “urban” category.

The $5,000 prize will be split equally between the youth who made the video and the Giving Hope 4-H Club at Vista Maria, led by Adnan Khalil.

I’m sure you’ll be able to see their passion for the project when you watch their video.

Jessica Cotton, Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator in Wayne County, provided leadership for the video project, and the Better Detroit Youth Movement, a nonprofit organization serving Detroit, Pontiac and Baltimore, edited the video.

When Jessica told the two that they had won, she said that they “were extremely excited. It was great for these young men to see that their hard work mattered and that it’s ok to step up and be a leader.”

The National 4-H Council and Monsanto worked together to create the Fish Farm Challenge (part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience) to get today’s kids interested and involved in agriculture. The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience not only sparks enthusiasm, but also helps youth develop skills that help them succeed in future agriculture-related careers as well as careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). And these future farmers and scientists may be on their way to solving the world’s hunger problem.

Great job to everyone on the team!

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Filed under 4-H

Including a local initiative in your plan of work

At the 2014 Michigan State University Extension Fall Extension Conference, we introduced the concept of including a local initiative in an educator’s plan of work. This would allow the opportunity to respond to or address a programming topic or issue that:

  1. The educator has expertise in or has knowledge and skills in that he or she would like to further develop but it may not be a priority in the work team plan or,
  2. Is a local programmatic need that is not directly being addressed in a work team plan, and
  3. Provides time to respond to local needs, or develops local strategic relationships and constituent interactions.

These types of initiative are an excellent way for Extension educators to engage in local programming in the county where they are housed to demonstrate the value of Extension to the local community and bring visibility to the work of MSU Extension staff.

As expected, this topic has created a lot of interest across the state. We want to take this opportunity to continue to clarify the intent of the local initiative option in individual plans.

The expectation is that staff will reserve 80 to 100 percent of their programming time for planned activities in conjunction with their institute and team(s) and corresponding plans. Up to 20 percent is available to use in planning for individual local initiatives. Prior to developing a plan for the individual local initiative, it is expected that staff will have a discussion with their institute director (ID) and the appropriate district coordinator (DC) to ensure the proposed initiative aligns with the overall mission of MSU Extension and is in alignment with the individual’s identified role in the organization. Some key points to keep in mind when considering a local initiative for your plan are:

  • The proposed initiative must be in alignment with the overall mission of MSU Extension.
  • Plans and initiatives must be discussed with and approved by the institute director and the district coordinator. If you are not sure where to begin and need ideas, remember DCs are an excellent resource due to their local vantage points. They can provide suggestions to you for initiatives that are in need of addressing.
  • Staff is expected and will be responsible to report at the end of the year what they accomplished with this allocation of time.

We will continue to work toward full implementation of this concept of plan of work flexibility between team and local program planning for our next cycle of plan development. In the meantime, if you have an opportunity you would like to pursue during this program year or find you need to alter your plan to give attention to an important local issue, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your ID or DC. Please send any questions you might have to your DC or ID and we will put together an FAQ to update and share periodically in this Spotlight or a webinar. We will also work toward a full set of guidelines to include in next year’s plan of work instructions.

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Filed under Conferences, Fall Extension Conference

Money management classes taught in the deaf community

One of our values at Michigan State University Extension is the commitment to reaching out to diverse clientele and finding ways to adapt our content to their needs. This November, Wanda Roberts, Extension educator in Oakland County with the Financial and Homeownership Education Team, taught a Money Management Workshop Series at Faith Assembly Deaf Church in Pontiac.

The program reached 21 people who are deaf, three who are deaf and blind, and three who are hard of hearing. The program engaged eight sign language interpreters each week to work with the group. Topics presented during the series included making money decisions, creating and managing a spending plan, managing credit and debt, as well as saving and investing.

The participant feedback was very positive. Two participant responses follow:

  • I enjoyed learning. I’m prepared for the future. I can now protect myself and my family. The three classes were worth it! Many deaf and hard of hearing wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn these details.
  • I’m very impressed since I actually understood all of it. I’m not even anxious a bit. I like the way the instructor was patient with all questions and was open about our concerns.

Our commitment to Michigan individuals and families extends to many diverse audiences, and it’s exciting to see how the partnerships we make can help facilitate that.

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Filed under curriculum, diversity

Districts are changing and MSU Extension educators take charge

As we talked about at this year’s Fall Extension Conference and earlier this week on the director’s webinar, Michigan State University Extension will be creating a new district in northern Michigan in early 2015. Districts 3 and 4 will be split to create District 14. District 3 will consist of Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Manistee counties. District 14 will consist of Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Montmorency, Otsego and Presque Isle counties, and District 4 will be made up of Alcona, Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Oscoda, Ogemaw and Roscommon counties.

The job for the new coordinator for district 14 has been posted, and details can be found on the Michigan State University Job Portal (number 0549).

In addition, we have multiple interim district coordinators who have started their positions in the past few months to deal with shifting responsibilities within the organization.

As of Oct. 1, Richard Wooten is interim district coordinator for District 11, which includes Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. Richard most recently served as an MSU Extension educator focusing on land use planning and urban development and revitalization. He was involved with the government and public policy work group of MSU Extension and also previously served as the MSU Extension ombudsman. He brings years of experience and will serve alongside Marie Ruemenapp and newly appointed intern district coordinator Edward Scott, who will continue his role as an Extension educator while serving part-time as intern district coordinator.

In District 3, Jennifer Berkey has been named the interim coordinator. She assumed the role of managing Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Manistee counties on Oct. 1 to replace Patrick Cudney, who was named MSU Extension associate director of operations. Jennifer was most recently an MSU Extension educator focusing on food safety, nutrition and physical activity.

And last but not least, Julie Pioch has been named interim district coordinator for district 13, which consists of Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. Pioch assumed the role Nov. 3 after two decades of experience with MSU Extension. She replaces Ginger Hentz, who will retire at the end of 2014. Julie was most recently an MSU Extension educator focusing on land use planning, government/public policy, and leadership and community development. In her 20-year career with MSU Extension, she has worked in multiple areas, including community and economic development, natural resources, food systems and entrepreneur development.

We are very excited about all of the individuals who have stepped up to help us coordinate our outreach efforts in these three districts, as well as the individual that will take on district 14 in the upcoming year. Congratulations!

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Filed under Accomplishments

Will you be bringing home a Christmas tree? Check this out!

It’s that time of year again! It’s officially December and that means that most of you have either already purchased a tree for the holidays or you are planning to do so in the next few weeks. Wherever you are in the tree-buying game, you might be wise to check out the multiple resources created by Michigan State University Extension on the topics of how to choose, care for and dispose of Christmas trees successfully.

A great place to start would be “Choosing the Right Christmas Tree” by Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell. If you aren’t sure what type of tree to get, they’ve put together a comprehensive guide about what types of Christmas trees are available in Michigan, as well as different tips on how to care for them.

Other helpful and timely MSU Extension articles by the duo include “Water Is the Essential Ingredient in Keeping Your Farm-Grown Christmas Tree Fresh” and “Living Christmas Trees: Another Real Tree Option.”

Also, if you want to learn about Christmas tree care in just a few seconds, they’ve worked with Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications to put together a collection of videos explaining it in the following playlist:

(Check out the rest of the playlist here)

In addition, visit the Michigan Christmas Tree Association website for information on where to buy trees as well as other helpful tips.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Great Thanksgiving and Holiday advice … From all of YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and no one should be checking their email, I thought I would make this week’s Spotlight a little shorter and send it today, so that you can all get to your families and celebrations.

You are all amazing, and the following highlighted articles are receiving tremendous hits – 1,403 in the last 30 days! This is just a small sampling, and many others have had a lot of success as well. A lot of you have used this holiday as a launching point to create informative and timely articles on the Michigan State University Extension website. Here’s a sampling of the articles I’ve seen!

To make sure you’re safe in the kitchen while preparing such a huge meal, make sure you follow these tips to keep safe from kitchen fires. And if you haven’t properly thawed your turkey yet, you might want to cook it frozen. Also, did you know that cooking stuffing inside the turkey might not be the safest way to cook it? Learn more in the video below:

You may have kids home this week that are very excited about Thanksgiving and the holiday season beginning, and you can help them appreciate it more by explaining why we eat cranberries at Thanksgiving, or by teaching them to appreciate the science behind mashed potatoes and gravy.

I know that some of you will be starting your holiday shopping this weekend, so look to your colleagues for advice on choosing the right Christmas tree and keeping that tree fresh through the holiday season. You might also want to create a budget for your Christmas presents so that you don’t break the bank and learn more about the return policies for stores where you’ll be buying presents before you camp out for Black Friday deals.

After this weekend is over, don’t forget about food safety. Throw out any remaining leftovers to keep your family safe. You may also consider inviting friends and neighbors to partake in your festivities while the food is still fresh, to help those struggling with hunger in your community.

I am thankful for all of you and the excellent education and service you provide for the people of the state of Michigan. Have safe travels and food preparation! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under Food, Food safety