Category Archives: MSUE News

MSU Extension receives USDA grant to support Flint families

I am pleased to announce that Michigan State University Extension was awarded a five-year grant that will fund early childhood programs and new resources for Flint families. Grant funding for the program will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Children Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Community Projects.

During the grant period, MSU Extension will partner with two Flint neighborhoods heavily affected by lead contamination. The goal is to build a sustainable community model for parenting and early childhood education. The two community sites will offer parents and caregivers evidence- and research-based parenting education materials and child-focused activities based on community needs. Education and spending time with caring adults can help kids succeed, and by helping parents learn how to provide these types of positive early childhood experiences, we can help them limit the effects of lead on their children.

We’re resolved to provide the Flint community with as much support as we possibly can to help address the long-term effects of lead exposure. This grant will allow us to support hundreds of Flint families and build a sustainable community partnership for continuing this work after the grant ends. Read more about this grant in the press release by Jamie Wilson here.

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Filed under Children and Youth, Flint Water, health, Health and Nutrition, MSUE News, Nutrition, Parenting, Partnerships

New College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Announced

Ronald L. Hendrick will be recommended as dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. If approved by the MSU Board of Trustees, Dean Hendrick’s appointment will be effective July 1, 2016. We are excited to welcome him back, as he is an MSU alumnus who earned both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from MSU in forestry and forest ecology.

Photo of Dean Ron Hendrick.

Dean Ron Hendrick from Ohio State University  begins July 1, 2016 with approval of the Board of Trustees. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

Dean Hendrick currently serves as interim dean for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Science at Ohio State University(OSU). He has extensive experience, as he has served OSU since 2013 in a variety of roles, including as senior associate dean and director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Before that, he was associate dean for academic affairs in the D.B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia (UGA). He was also graduate program coordinator for UGA’s School of Forestry.

His research program has focused on forest ecosystem productivity and element cycling, especially below ground, and various aspects of ecosystem restoration and reclamation. His teaching experience includes leading a number of study abroad programs in the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Antarctica.

At OSU, Hendrick led the creation of a comprehensive master plan for college facilities that totaled $350 million and encompassed more than 300 physical structures, two campuses and nearly a dozen outlying research and outreach stations. Additionally, he led successful fundraising efforts to raise $14 million in capital funds to improve facilities, and an $80 million multi-stakeholder effort to re-envision the college’s animal populations is underway.

Dean Hendrick will be a tremendous addition to Michigan State University and the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. His appreciation for the values of a land grant university and significant experience as a scientist, program builder and leader will make us all better. From my conversations with him to date I know that he is a strong proponent and supporter of Extension who will work closely with us to adapt and grow programs throughout Michigan.

We look forward to welcoming him into our college and showing him the important work his fellow Spartans are doing throughout the state.

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MSU Extension’s digital presence makes impact

Our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension articles are gaining attention nationally and around the world. I’d like to highlight two articles that have made an impression online and especially through social media.

Dr. Julianna Wilson, tree fruit integrator/outreach specialist in the Department of Entomology, wrote an article about the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) “Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business.” This pest can cause serious damage to crops. The invasive species’ presence in our state is a high-impact issue that was able to gain the attention it deserved because of our well-established digital presence.

As of Oct. 12, this article has had 96,500 pageviews since it was posted on Sept. 25, making it the seventh most visited article on the MSU Extension website overall. On Sept. 28, we had a record 25,594 visits in a single day (primarily because of this article). (We average 11,000 to 13,000 per day with a record of just under 15,000.) On Sept. 29, that record was broken with 42,812 visits (again spiked by this visit). At its peak, these numbers were growing by 100 pageviews every four minutes. Ninety-one percent of the traffic to the article has been from mobile devices. Average read time is 4:07, which means people are taking the time to read it and absorb what they’ve read. More than 67,000 of the visits to this article have come from social media. It has spurred more than 17,000 social media interactions.

The article asks readers to report any sightings of the stinky pest to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). Before the article was posted, there were six records of BMSB in the MISIN database. As of Oct. 13, there were 1,860 records of BMSB from Michigan and northern parts of states that border us ‒ mostly from the Toledo, Ohio, and South Bend, Indiana, regions.

Julianna said, “What these numbers tell me is that social media played a huge role in getting the word out about the article, and then the fact that the MSU Extension website is mobile friendly helped keep people there and reading the article. The last two pieces that made this a success were having an established database for collecting reports and good timing. This is the time of year when the bug moves into people’s homes and they notice it. The fact that we have this well-established reporting site (MISIN) for invasive species meant that I didn’t have to create a way for people to report numbers to me ‒ the infrastructure was already in place.

“I plan to use this data to determine where other hotspots have been forming and to get the word out to growers in those areas that if they haven’t before, they should certainly be scouting for this pest next season,” she said.

One member of our MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Team is getting the word out about a particular poisonous fruit. Extension educator Gretchen Voyle wrote an article for the MSU Extension website “What Fruit Is Growing on My Potato Plants?

As a potato disease specialist, I was particularly drawn to the article that talks about the phenomenon that occurs when potato plants produce fruit on top of the plants. In fact, one of the first questions I was asked when I got to MSU was about tomatoes growing on potato plants. It seems that our cool July weather was responsible for the fruit’s appearance this year. The alkaloid content of these fruits puts them into the “they are edible once” category. In other words, don’t eat them!

It seems that a lot of other people are interested in this as well.

Dennis Bond, manager of Web services in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources let us know about the spread of Gretchen’s words warning people about the fruit.

Dennis said, “The article helped the MSU Extension website set a traffic record of 17,471 visits (previous record: 15,960 on June 1) though that record was broken seven days later by the article on the stink bug. It also set a social media record of 4,381 visits from social media sources, another record broken a week later. At its height in popularity, it was viewed on all major continents, in 2,040 cities across 100 countries in 63 languages.”

That gives us great perspective on the extensive reach of our MSU Extension website! Congratulations to Gretchen and to Julianna!

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New design makes MSU Extension site mobile friendly

According to stats from Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Technology Services, more than 35 percent of the traffic to the Michigan State University Extension site in 2014 was from mobile or tablet devices. Additionally, more and more of our users are now purchasing “smart” devices for day-to-day use, so it is likely that those numbers will continue to rise.

In an effort to accommodate the needs of all of our clients, ANR Technology Services has re-designed the MSU Extension website to be “responsive” to whatever device they use. That means that the website will determine, based on the size of the screen, how to display itself to make it as easy to navigate as possible. It will be just as easy to find what you’re looking for on a smart phone as it is on a desktop.

“A responsive website will help to ensure that MSU Extension experts and information remain available across the wide spectrum of mobile devices and screen sizes,” said Dennis Bond, web manager. “This type of website has been a goal of ours for some time now, and I’m very proud of our website development team for their superb design and implementation.”

This re-design was a long time in the making, and it goes a long way to help us be as accessible as possible, all while maintaining Michigan State University’s branding standards. Our website is a great place to highlight your effort and programming, and continued improvements will make it even easier to showcase. Great job, everyone!

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MSU Extension website reached 10 million page views

Last Thursday, we received word from our colleagues at Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Technology Services and ANR Communications that the Michigan State University Extension website had rolled over 10 million page views. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the site only launched April 18, 2012, and every year the traffic continues to increase. The site received approximately 1.85 million page views in year one, 3.64 million in year two and we are already at 4.63 million page views so far this year, still about a month away from our three-year anniversary.

When you submit content to our website (including articles, events, county pages, fact sheets and more), you are adding more opportunities for Michigan residents and individuals from across the globe to benefit from your expertise. You continue to impress our readers, and many are becoming return visitors with the help of digests and social media.

This is a truly amazing accomplishment made possible only because of the content you all create, and the forward-thinking ideas you bring to the table to utilize the website as an outreach tool. This passion for outreach has always been at the heart of MSU Extension, and now we have a website that can help us achieve our mission in the 21st century.

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Asian carp going viral

Our Michigan State University Extension educators write regular articles for our website, and we often find that their superb content gets a lot of attention from the public. Recently, we’ve had an article go practically viral very quickly after it was posted on Feb. 24. Dan O’Keefe’s article, “Asian Carp Being Eaten by Native Fish, New Studies Find,” quickly passed the 1,000-visit mark, and it is currently the most-read article on the MSU Extension website at 7,791 page views in less than a month.

Within days of the article’s publication, it exceeded even the traffic of the home page of the MSU Extension website. Adding to the traffic, the article was featured in Blue Water Satellite, an e-newsletter that focuses on Great Lakes issues. The biggest push of traffic came from Facebook, however, with more than 5,000 visits so far to the article directly. This post has attracted a lot of cumulative attention due to the timely nature of the study, the well-researched content, and the sharing on social networks that our friends and partners have done for us.

Great job, Dan!

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The MSU Extension Bookstore transitions to shop.msu.edu

Last month, I wrote about some of the changes that were going to be taking place with the Michigan State University Extension Bookstore, and now the time has come! On October 1, the bookstore will become part of the MSU online store, shop.msu.edu. At that time, MSU Extension products that are currently being sold at the bookstore will be available on the shop.msu.edu online store. This new partnership allows MSU Extension to continue to produce high-quality products while taking advantage of a robust, cyber-secure online retail store.

The bookstore is closed until October 1, during which time no orders can be placed. Beginning October 1, all orders must be placed and purchased via shop.msu.edu. Any customers with existing MSU Extension accounts will have to set up new accounts if they don’t already have shop.msu.edu accounts. To do so:

  1. Go to shop.msu.edu.
  2. Click on “My Account” at the top of the page.
  3. Click “Continue” under “New Customers.”
  4. Enter your email address and create a password. Click “Continue.”
  5. Enter the rest of your contact information.
  6. Beginning Oct. 1, click on “MSU Extension Bookstore” at the top of the page.
  7. Start shopping.

Those interested in picking up their orders in person can do so at the shop.msu.edu fulfillment center at University Stores in the Angell Building, 166 Service Road on the MSU campus. You can also learn more about shop.msu.edu on their website.

I think this is a great opportunity for MSU Extension and shop.msu.edu to showcase the strengths of each distinct entity. MSU Extension will continue to provide its customers with the highest quality materials via a platform that has a successful history of retail sales on the university level. I look forward to introducing our products to a much larger audience as well.

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Do your homework before going Christmas tree shopping

It’s that time of year. It’s already December and before you know it, Christmas with be here. Decorating is a big part of the holiday. Many of you will go out this weekend looking for that perfect tree. And what better place than Michigan?

A recent Michigan State University Extension news article by Bert Cregg, MSU associate professor in the departments of Horticulture and Forestry, and Jill O’Donnell, senior Extension educator, says that Michigan’s climate and soils allow our Christmas tree growers to produce a wider variety of trees than almost any other state. Unfortunately, sometimes having many choices can cause shoppers to become overwhelmed and confused.

Not to worry, the article “Selecting the Perfect Christmas Tree: Tree Types” will serve as a guide to help you select the right tree for you and your family. Who doesn’t get annoyed when fallen needles cover wrapped presents under the tree? This article lets you know which trees have good needle retention. You may have furry friends that just won’t leave the tree alone. Bert and Jill will let you know which tree keeps pets at bay.

Included in the article are photos of each tree species as well as videos that give details about some of them.

Other helpful and timely MSU Extension articles are “Picking and Caring for the Perfect Christmas Tree” by Extension educator Erin Lizotte and Jill, and “Keeping Your Real Christmas Tree Fresh This Holiday Season” by Jill and Bert.

It’s great to have this expertise available to us at the click of the mouse on our MSU Extension website. And I’ve seen links to them on several social media sites in Michigan and beyond. This is a great example of using the news articles on our website to get out information that people are seeking, and answering questions from many more people than we would get just from telephone calls to county Extension offices in the past.

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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One-year-old performs beyond expectations

Our new Michigan State University Extension website is one year old today! With your help, the site has done extremely well. The latest statistics taken April 15 reveal we’ve had 1.8 million pageviews on the site!

The website’s beginnings go back to fall 2010 when Dr. Wendy Powers, director of the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, challenged Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications to build on the success of the CAT (Crop Advisory Team) Alerts that entomology specialist Joy Landis and her team had produced so successfully.

Joy; Dennis Bond, web administrator for ANR Technology Services; and communications manager Beth Stuever made quick work of creating and launching News for Ag in March 2011. Faculty and staff members shared their practical knowledge in Internet articles. The site gave farmers and others in agriculture access to the latest information and research.

Dr. Powers said, “Our intent was to demonstrate how this would work and the impact if might have. Fortunately, the site now reflects the breadth of MSUE by including all of the institutes.”

Eventually, educators and specialists from all four institutes lent their expertise and the MSU Extension website was born on April 18, 2012 – one year ago today.

You may recall that during Fall Extension Conference in October 2012, we hit the million mark for pageviews. The number of people who are engaging on our pages grows steadily. This last week produced some new high numbers. Our current lows are as big as the past highs! When we began this process, we considered 2,500 pageviews in a week an outstanding result. The highest day ever in News for Ag was in March 2012 with slightly more than 2,200 visits. The portal averaged about 6,000 visits PER YEAR. Now, we get more than twice that almost every day. In fact, in the last 30 days, more than 100,600 people have visited the site. Collectively, they have viewed 220,695 pages. And about 29,000 people come back to our site EVERY DAY.

To compare ourselves to other Extension services, Iowa State in the last 30 days had 587,402 pageviews, while we had 210,616. In a year’s time, we have grown to have almost half as many as they have. Keep in mind, they have a more mature site that includes ALL their events and all their 4-H information. We also have three times as many pageviews during the last 30 days as Kansas State Extension, and two-thirds as many as the Ohio State University Extension and as North Dakota State University Extension Service – all sites that have been around longer and are considered more mature than our site.

Extension specialist Cindy Straus worked hard on gathering these statistics and putting them into a format we could understand. Thanks, Cindy!

And really, the website is only part of the story. Articles that appear on the site are often picked up by traditional and digital media, thereby extending the value of every article written and helping us reach more people with pertinent education.

We’re making some great progress, partly because we have great content. However, we need more content to attract people to our website. Extension educators, reach out to faculty – whether they are Extension specialists or not – and offer them the opportunity to get more visibility for the work they are doing through MSU Extension website articles.

The MSU Extension web team includes Dennis, Sean Corp, Michelle Lavra, Laura Probyn, Marian Reiter, Cindy Straus and Beth Stuever.

A team of posters regularly upload or “post” articles that educators and specialists submit (hence, the term “poster”).

Beth said, “The posters are our front lines in working with educators and specialists to ensure high-quality, timely information is added daily.”

These posters include Mindy Maxwell Pratt (poster team coordinator), Sean Corp, Sandra Ennes, Mallory Fournier (under the supervision of Joy) and Katie Gervasi.

Thanks to all of these staff members and to all of you who are writing the articles and lending your expertise to the site. You’re making our numbers go up! You’re bringing a lot of attention to our programs that we wouldn’t have been getting without the new website.

Watch this week’s webinar at https://connect.msu.edu/p14evbgs7ij (at 50:39) to find out more.

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MSUE News stories can lead to new connections

The Lenawee County poultry story reminds me of another one that involves Janelle Stewart, Lenawee County Michigan State University Extension 4-H educator in the Children and Youth Institute. Janelle published an article for MSUE News in January titled “Create a Good Partnership in Eight Steps.” Last week, she received an email from Clare Membiela, associate director at the Thomas M. Cooley Law Libraries. Clare was planning some professional development for 50 library staff members at all five of Cooley’s campuses and asked Janelle if she would give a one-hour training on partnerships based on her article. Clare had read Janelle’s article and thought it would be helpful for her colleagues to learn from Janelle directly.

It’s not every day that a 4-H educator gets invited to speak to librarians at a law school. In this case, it’s the largest law school in the nation, and it’s our colleague Janelle who got that unusual request. You never know who might be reading your MSUE News articles!

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