Category Archives: communication

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

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications

Getting the word out to Flint families

On Tuesday, April 26, MSU Extension participated in the Flint Farmers Market event held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and attended by representatives from state and local agencies, the media and the public. The event raised awareness about the nutrition assistance programs and guidance resources available to Flint residents.

During the press conference, speakers from many organizations and programs such as the Fair Food Network, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan joined USDA speakers to share about nutrition and program information. Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, spoke at the press conference, highlighting MSU Extension resources and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP‒Ed).

After the press conference, participants interacted with program staff during activities and demonstrations, and at informational booths. Our MSU Extension team provided a cooking demonstration, a Cooking Matters class and a Discover Michigan Fresh tour. They also set up a “fender blender” bike for participants to ride to create a healthy smoothie and taste the results of their efforts. The MSU Extension booth showcased our nutrition education curricula, fight lead brochures and class fliers.

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The event provided accurate information, brought partners together who support the efforts in Flint and delivered a cohesive message. The USDA took sounds bites and video footage to develop public service announcements for future use to reach out and educate more of the public about the important resources available.

Thank you, Dawn Contreras, Deanna East, Erin Powell, Lynette Kaiser, Rich Ashley and his son Gabe, Liz Josaitis, Maha Khrais, Shane Jackson, Nancy Latham, Becky Henne and Tom Cummins for your efforts to provide meaningful activities and content, and for representing MSU Extension at this successful event.

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Filed under Children and Youth, communication, Events, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications, Resources

MSU Extension continues to meet Flint needs

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is providing adaptable programming to meet the specific and urgent needs of the people of Flint. Through cooking demonstrations and instruction from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) on purchasing and preparing healthy foods, we have been disseminating nutrition information to help block lead absorption. Through our Master Gardeners and edible flint, we’ve taught about growing healthy food in lead-contaminated soils and water. Through the 4-H dog, rabbit and cavy clubs, we’ve led discussions in caring for animals exposed to lead. Through early childhood development education, we’ve identified the importance of using play to combat lead effects. We have also developed the Fight Lead Exposure site to provide important resources and information to the people of Flint and the state at large.

We have been facilitating partnerships with those wanting to pitch in and help. We appreciate the resource donations from the Michigan Milk Producers and the Michigan Vegetable Growers. We are also grateful to MSU Athletics and MSU students, faculty and alumni that have donated their time volunteering. The Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan have been an essential partner in our efforts.

Why does Extension have such an important role to play? We have been serving the people of Flint since 1913 and have built an essential level of trust. MSU Extension has strong partnerships with county government, health and nutrition, agriculture, 4-H and early childhood development, which makes us a presence that can adapt to specific and urgent needs in the community. Not just in Flint, but across Michigan.

Now, more than ever, MSU Extension is in the state and national spotlight. For example, everyone who received the email invitation to the Democratic Debate on Sunday, March 6, received the MSU Extension “Fight Lead With Nutrition” handout attached by the Democratic National Committee Debate Team. Our work was recognized by the national debate team putting the event together. The effects and range of our outreach are growing. Remember that it is important that each link in our organization be strong and ready to respond to the next crisis or need in our communities.

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, communication, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Impacts, Nutrition, Partnerships

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

Spotlight is changing!

After this week’s edition, the Michigan State University Extension Spotlight will be sent out monthly, instead of weekly, on the third Thursday of every month. Since I’ve started my role as interim director of MSU Extension, I have evaluated which methods of communication work best with our needs. After a lot of thought, I believe that alternating between our monthly webinar on the first Monday of every month and now moving the Spotlight to the third Thursday of every month will give you the most relevant information available without overloading your schedules or inboxes on the off weeks.

Spotlight is a very important communications tool between the administrative team and the field. For years, the director’s blog has been sent out weekly to highlight announcements, accomplishments and the work that you all do in MSU Extension and the associated partnerships that go along with that work. I value the Spotlight as an opportunity to reach you all on a regular basis – to keep all of you up to date on your colleagues’ work, even if you don’t interact with them regularly.

However, in the spirit of brevity and relevance, we are going to send out Spotlight once a month, and send more timely updates only as necessary in between.

Look out for my next Spotlight in August!

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Filed under communication