Category Archives: Accomplishments

A National Framework for Urban Extension

Photo of a city street looking through a small window.

The Journal of Extension published “A National Framework for Urban Extension,” co-authored by Michigan State University Extension educator Marie Ruemenapp. The framework was created out of a collaboration by the National Urban Extension Leaders (NUEL) group that Marie co-founded and in which she serves as the vice chair. NUEL was formed after a group of mid-level managers and administrators from Extension in urban cities met together over breakfast and began conversations about commonalities in their work, and the opportunities and obstacles faced in urban and metropolitan areas. The group decided to continue the conversations and to meet regularly. They began to draft a framework for urban Extension.

Marie said, “(Our goal is) to elevate the conversation around what Extension should be doing in urban environments to a national discussion, and to begin to collaborate and network around that, so that state Extension systems can be more effective in urban and metropolitan environments.

“Eighty percent (of people) in Michigan live in five metro centers around the state. About a third of the state’s population lives in one of 26 cities. So Michigan really is a metropolitan and urban state. And that’s true across the country. Even nationally, about 80 percent of the population live in urban or metropolitan centers. We need to work where our clients are and make sure we’re relevant to meet their needs in ways that work for them.”

To craft the framework, NUEL members conducted an extensive literature review and collected information and experiences from Extension staff members working in urban centers around the nation. They identified four areas of historical development and opportunity for urban Extension: positioning, personnel, programs and partnerships.

To condense the framework and recommendations to make it more accessible, Marie worked with fellow NUEL members Julie Fox, associate professor, Ohio State University Extension; Patrick Proden, metro regional administrator, Division of Outreach and Engagement, Oregon State University; and Brad Gaolach, director, Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension, Washington State University Extension; to author the journal article. Read the journal article at https://joe.org/joe/2017october/a2.php.

At the end of 2015, the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy identified that they were going to put a priority on urban Extension, and they asked NUEL to give leadership to their efforts. As a result, the group planned the National Urban Extension Conference in 2017. They plan to sponsor this conference every two years.

NUEL is also in the process of organizing a regional collaborative networking group for staff members who work in urban Extension and are interested in talking to other staff. This is a great opportunity to get involved. If you are interested in joining this network, email Marie at ruemenap@anr.msu.edu. She will connect you.

Further information on urban Extension:

A National Framework for Urban Extension: A Report from the National Urban Extension Leaders (full report)

Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, Special Issue: Urban Extension – June 2017

Also, you can find many helpful resources on the NUEL website.

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Filed under Accomplishments, communication, Publications, Urban Collaborators, Urban Extension

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognizes MSU Extension and partners for Flint response

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy honored the Michigan Milk Producers Association, the Kroger Co. of Michigan and Michigan State University Extension for collaborating to support families during the 2016 Flint water emergency. Because of the collaboration, food-insecure families in Flint received over 36,000 gallons of milk to help block lead absorption. For our efforts, we received an honorable mention for their U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award of Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships.

We appreciate the honor and hope that the national recognition goes even farther than an award we put on the shelf and feel good about. This won’t be the first or last emergency in our communities in Michigan or nationwide. We hope that the national spotlight on our partnership will give other organizations ideas of ways that they can partner to meet community needs, especially in a crisis. We hope to continue to bring the right people together to help solve complex problems, and inspire others to do the same.

To read more about how our collaboration came together, take a look at my blog post, “Getting Nutritious Milk to Flint: They Make It Look Easy.”

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards, Flint Water

Board of Trustees select a professor with an Extension appointment for University Distinguished Professor title

Congratulations to Dr. Doug Landis on his selection by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees as a University Distinguished Professor, in recognition of his achievements in the classroom, laboratory and community. This recognition is among the highest honors that can be bestowed on a faculty member by the university. Dr. Landis is one of 10 faculty members selected who have all been recognized nationally and internationally for the importance of their teaching, research and outreach achievements.

Dr. Landis is a professor of insect ecology in the Department of Entomology and also has an Extension appointment. His research focuses on understanding the factors that influence arthropod biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. He is the author of over 140 peer-reviewed journal articles, 25 book chapters and more than 50 Extension bulletins. His Extension work focuses on the use of ecological restoration to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, and on invasive species ecology and management. Current areas of his outreach include the biodiversity implications of bioenergy landscapes, prairie fen and oak savanna restoration, the use of native plants to enhance ecosystem services, monarch butterfly conservation and biological control of invasive spotted knapweed.

Please join me in congratulating Doug on his University Distinguished Professor title.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards

Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisherman’s Association gives Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award to Michigan Sea Grant Educator

Head shot of Dan O'Keef with a distant lake in the background.Congratulations to Michigan State University Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator Dan O’Keefe on receiving the Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award from the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. The association chose Dan for the award to honor his contributions to sport fishing and his work to research and expand fishing and the environment necessary for the sport. Dan serves seven counties along the coast of Lake Michigan and has developed many education and outreach programs such as citizen science programs and fishery workshops. He also completed a study and evaluation of charter and tournament fishing economic impacts that has led to a greater appreciation for a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem. Howard Tanner, former director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the MSU College of Ag and Natural Resources, is 94 and still supporting the stewardship of Michigan’s Great Lakes. He was at the ceremony to bestow the award. Read more about Dan and his award on the MSU Extension website.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards, Sea Grant Extension

How one person leads to another: Strategic connections in District 1

Erin Carter is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator with the Extension Health Research (EHR) and Disease Prevention and Management (DPM) teams. She’s been with us since 2015 and serves our MSU Extension District 1. As part of the DPM aspect of her position, she offers programming in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, Dining with Diabetes, Matter of Balance, Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) and Diabetes PATH. She works with an Ishpeming 5th grade class to offer the SPartners physical activity and nutrition program.

Headshot of Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

The goal of the recently formed EHR team is to serve as a model to promote partnerships nationwide between Extension and university academic faculty to advance health in all our communities. EHR offers “Are You Research Ready?” to train Extension educators to use their health programs, expertise and community connections to work closely with the MSU College of Human Medicine researchers. The team also offers “Speed Meetings” to inform statewide faculty about Extension programming so they may use our programming, our connections or both in their research.

When making strategic connections, Erin told us that she’s not quiet for long.

“When I feel strongly about something I only sit back when forced to do so. With this being said, I talk about Extension a lot, which opens doors to things I didn’t know existed or something I could be involved in,” Erin said. “It’s interesting how one person leads to another and with each relationship, positive things began to happen.”

Erin made an important connection when a person who works in health with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians approached her. He asked her to help him form a coalition at the K. I. Sawyer community.

Once a pristine U.S. Air Force base, K. I. Sawyer, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, turned rural Gwinn into a bustling small city starting in 1955. This all changed after the Base Realignment Commission of the federal government decided to close K. I. Sawyer in 1993. Upheaval of the Air Force base left behind miles of land. Air force properties sold to private individuals, companies and the Sault Tribe mostly for $1 per property. Some of the housing is vacant, but other homes are inhabited by families and individuals, many of whom cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Eighty-seven percent of students in the K. I. Sawyer School are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. The community within K. I. Sawyer, Lake Superior Village, reports numbers of 100 percent free and reduced-lunch status. In this small section of K. I. Sawyer, the former community center has opened its doors to serve these families with volunteers within the neighboring counties. Donations have been the only means of providing services for an after-school and summer program, which offers healthy snacks.

The residents of Lake Superior Village do not have access to health care. The closest hospital is a 30-minute drive for individuals having the luxury of owning a car.

If employed, individuals usually work in service jobs earning minimum wage or just above minimum wage. Since these jobs are primarily in Marquette, workers must take public transit or drive personal cars requiring more cost and hardship.

“It only took me one visit to know this partnership was important and could do some great things in a community of need,” Erin said. “The social determinants of health talks about the importance of healthy communities and how unsafe or unhealthy communities affect everyone. If there are no programs for this community, what will happen to the outlying communities? It takes committed people willing to take the time to see the needs and begin to help the people of a community left behind.”

The coalition came together with representatives from the Sault Tribe, the YMCA of Marquette and MSU Extension. They teamed together with other local partners to offer programming in healthy food preparation, physical activity, diabetes prevention and gardening.

Erin sent us some amazing updates of the coalition’s progress:

  • A kickoff dinner brought the K. I. Sawyer Coalition idea to community leaders, police departments, city planners, early education specialists, garden experts, K. I. Sawyer community building employees, local papers and media, Marquette city professionals and community residents.
  • A new community center kitchen that will offer cooking demos and serve more people healthy food is in the blueprints stage.
  • The basketball courts are being repaved, and the MSU Extension Marquette County 4-H group is working to improve the baseball fields.
  • An abandoned hoop house at the school will be moved to make room for a garden.
  • Buses from the school will transport community residents to the events at the community center.
  • Volunteers from all over Marquette County will start a butterfly garden this summer.
  • Partnering with the Sault Tribe has increased MSU Extension programming participant numbers in the area three-fold.
  • Northern Michigan University students collaborate with us in the schools to bring healthy changes to the school’s students by encouraging physical activity.

Paul Putnam, MSU Extension District 1 coordinator, shared the results of Erin’s work.

“Erin has helped to expand our relationships and partnerships with her joint position, and has community connections in both the Houghton/Hancock and the Marquette areas,” he said. “She along with several other strong community partners are making significant impacts in a relatively short period of time.”

Erin said, “Being one of the core people to start the K. I. Sawyer coalition has made me realize how getting a few caring people together can really move a community forward. I’m fortunate I get an opportunity to see the impact a few projects can make to brighten a community and offer another type of value to people’s lives. Sometimes it feels like reaching out to make a connection takes too much time out of our schedules and remembering the value is difficult, but when this time is taken, it can really make a difference.”

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Filed under 4-H, Accomplishments, Children and Youth, Economic development, Greening Michigan, Health and Nutrition, Housing, Impacts, Native Americans, Nutrition, Partnerships, strategic connections, Uncategorized

Singing loudly for MSU Extension

In January, I posted about creative interventions and singing/spreading the word about the incredible work that you do and how that can help you to achieve your goals, open new paths of opportunity and enable us to do even more to serve people throughout Michigan. I wanted to share with you several opportunities that President Lou Anna K. Simon and I had to “sing” about the work we’re doing at MSU.

On March 2, President Lou Anna K. Simon testified in front of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee about the work that Michigan State University (MSU) is doing in all aspects of its mission. She highlighted the importance of the land-grant mission in talking about MSU’s response to Flint. Through the efforts of MSU Extension, the College of Human Medicine, the College of Nursing and the College of Education, Spartans have been serving Flint for over 100 years.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon testifies to the Senate Higher Education Appropriations.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon testifies to the Senate Higher Education Appropriations. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

“If we can’t literally be everywhere, we have the assets to deploy anywhere in Michigan thanks to what we already have embedded and our close relationships with community leaders. And driven by that big land-grant heart, we are trusted knowledge partners dedicated to working with people to build the human and intellectual infrastructure they need to be successful,” President Simon said.

On March 3, I was interviewed by President Simon and MSU athletics director Mark Hollis on our efforts in Flint. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, you can click on this link here. Athletics director Hollis recognized that MSU Extension is often known for our work with agriculture but gave me a chance to talk about the full range of Extension’s outreach and our four institutes. We have 600 people all over the state ‒ talented, passionate, well-educated ‒ and some have been there for over 30 years making a difference.

President Simon asked me to share about how 4-H is more than just a program for youth from rural towns. I talked about how we provide 4-H programs to urban youth and engage them in the sciences, the arts, careers and entrepreneurship, leadership, mentoring and more. Data show that youth that are involved in 4-H are more likely to go to and graduate from college. It’s also extremely important that we have these clubs so that when a crisis occurs, we can address the crisis within our already-formed groups. 25,000 adult volunteers bringing the community together around our young people. Youth need these mentors who are good role models in their lives.

Far too many still don’t know about MSU Extension. I hope we can use our many successes in agriculture to expand our communication about all our programming. President Simon said that she thinks of us as an adaptive technology – that we adapt our services to the needs and research available at the time. She’s right, and it’s important that we keep “singing” about who we are and all that we do around the state.

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Filed under 4-H, Accomplishments, Children and Youth, communication, strategic connections, Uncategorized

Welcome to 2016, my fellow MSU Extension Spartans!

Welcome to 2016! I am thrilled to get a chance to highlight everything I’m learning about the amazing work that you are doing here in Michigan. I am looking forward to the chance to meet you and getting to know you. I would like to invite you to get to know a little bit more about me by checking out my About Me page.

This is another month to be proud of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the work that we do across the state. At Issues Identification listening sessions in Hancock, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie, we heard again about the appreciation Michigan residents have for you and the expertise you bring to their families, businesses and communities.

In Flint last Thursday, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a new collaboration between Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center, was announced that will further focus attention and resources on Flint and children who have been impacted by toxic levels of lead in the water system. In the coming weeks and months, your MSU Extension colleagues will be doing even more along with partners from the Genesee County Health Department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the College of Human Medicine at MSU. To read more about this initiative in Flint, you can read my previous blog post.

Of course, this week more than 600 of our teammates have also been providing breastfeeding education; helping families, farms and those with new product ideas to navigate difficult financial terrain; and opening doors to new learning opportunities for kids ranging from horsemanship and raising crops and animals to civic engagement and leadership. There is much to be proud of. We will continue to support, communicate and celebrate all that we do and have traditionally done at every opportunity.

We can also use our history, relationships, knowledge and expertise to develop new ideas, approaches and opportunities that are required of us in the 21st century. When my girls were small (Amanda and Rebecca are now 25 and 20, respectively), I struggled with a common issue experienced by nearly all parents with small children: how to keep them safe while traversing parking lots. Our rule was that once they got out of the car, they had to keep one hand on the vehicle until they held my hand, then we would walk hand-in-hand to our destination.

But kids are kids. They would be excited about where we were going or who we were meeting and would sometimes drop my hand and take off. My (I think fairly typical) response would be to yell sharply and run after them, which meant we would end up at our destination across the parking lot with crying kids and a grumpy Dad. No fun.

Then we discovered a solution and we can thank the Beatles. Our new rule became this: if you take your hand away from Dad’s hand, he will sing the chorus from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as loudly as he can right there in the parking lot (“I wanna hold your hand, I wanna hold your hand, I wanna hold your hand”). The moment you reattach your hand to his, he will stop. Sounds crazy, but it worked. Not only did it accomplish safety in the parking lot, but there was no more crying and grumpiness. (Hint: If this does not work on the first attempt, you are not singing loudly enough to completely embarrass them.)

Try it. Find your voice. As you tackle your responsibilities this week, think about the challenges you face in helping our friends, neighbors and constituents through the work that you do and consider whether an unusual solution like “singing in the parking lot” will help. Creative interventions and singing/spreading the word about the incredible work that you do can help you to achieve your goals, open new paths of opportunity and enable us to do even more to serve people throughout Michigan. Take a risk, f it does not work the first time, perhaps you are not singing loudly enough!

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Filed under Accomplishments, Children and Youth, issue identification, Partnerships