Category Archives: Technology

Charlevoix County receives first-in-the-nation certification

Connected Nation recently recognized Charlevoix County with the first Connected Community certification in the country. The Connected Community Engagement Program managed by Connect Michigan guided the community through an assessment of their overall broadband and technology innovation. Achieving status of “Connected” certification affords a community an avenue to discuss its success and pursue opportunities as a recognized, technologically advanced community. County and local governments, schools, libraries and businesses participated in the inventory and planning process that led up to the certification.

Read this Michigan State University Extension article by Andy Hayes, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute and Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) president, to find out more about the award and Extension’s role in its partnership with the NLEA.


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Not mentioned but still appreciated

In last week’s Spotlight, I wrote about Michigan State University Extension’s role in bringing Adobe Connect forums to the public to educate on the ballot proposals. As sometimes happens, when names get mentioned, unfortunately someone will get left out. In this case, we left out ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans who set up the Adobe Connect room and videotaped the three policy experts. In addition, Extension specialist Georgia Peterson helped out by wrangling questions as they came in one evening from the four live sites. She quickly figured out the best method to do so within Adobe Connect.

Thanks to Steve and Georgia!

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Extension connects on ballot issues

In an article in last week’s Spotlight, I drew your attention to Bulletin GE 49, written by Michigan State University Extension specialist Claire Layman. The bulletin supplies non-partisan objective information allowing Michigan residents to make informed decisions on the six proposals appearing on the ballot Nov. 6.

Besides writing the bulletin, Claire was busy using technology to educate further about the proposals. With help from ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans, Claire led two Adobe Connect sessions on campus with leading experts on the ballot issues. On Oct. 22, the group hosted fora, reaching out to four locations: Harrisville, Lawrence, Sault Ste. Marie and Wayne. On Oct. 24, the fora involved five locations: Clinton Township, Flint, Hastings, Houghton and Traverse City.

Attendees read over the bulletin and watched three pre-recorded video interviews with policy experts who covered both sides of the proposal issues. Afterward, they asked questions of the experts through Adobe Connect.

Experts included MSU Extension specialist and professor of economics Eric Scorsone, professor in the MSU School of Human Resources and Labor Relations Peter Berg, marketing economist in the MSU Product Center Bill Knudson and senior associate director of the Land Policy Institute Mark Wyckoff.

A total of 149 people participated in the fora with the most attending at Harrisville in Alcona County with 53 participants.

Extension educators hosting the forums included Darren Bagley, Ann Chastain, Terry Gibb, Ginger Hentz, Brad Neumann, Julie Pioch, Bethany Prykucki, Mike Schira, Bonnie Witchner-Zoia and Richard Wooten. Terry Gibb helped write Bulletin GE 49 and helped to organize the overall registration.

In addition, Extension specialist Georgia Peterson helped out by wrangling questions as they came in one evening from the four live sites. She quickly figured out the best method to do so within Adobe Connect.

Organizations that partnered with us in this endeavor included the League of Women Voters, the Lake Superior State University Political Science Club, the Northwest Council of Michigan Governments and the District 13 Extension Council. Partner organizations served to recruit and market the forums, and served as table facilitators at small group discussions.

Claire reports that all evaluations have not been tabulated yet but those that have come in so far have been generally very positive. In Alcona County, 82 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Because of tonight’s event, I am better informed to make decisions on Michigan’s proposals in the upcoming election.” One hundred percent of Alcona County respondents agreed or strongly agreed that events such as the fora are valuable for our democracy, and 79 percent of them agreed or strongly agreed that they’d like to be a part of similar events.

Associate professor Luke Reese has been instrumental in leading us in the use of Adobe Connect technology. He continues to offer monthly online workshops and is largely responsible for our organizational competency in Adobe Connect meetings and webinars.

Thanks to Claire for making innovative use of technology and to Luke and Steve for continuing to teach, lead and support us in technology efforts. And thanks to our Extension educators for hosting and our partners for their contribution to the events.

We have further signs that people look to us when they want to make informed decisions based on expert opinion. As of Oct. 31, we had more than 400 page views for the forum event listings and nearly 1,400 page views on Extension educator Terry Gibb’s article “November Ballot Issues Could Mean Changes for Michigan Residents.”

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ANR Tech Services gets kudos for helping at the local level

I received an email last week from Joanne Davidhizar, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, that really made my day. Joanne sent her note on behalf of her colleagues in the MSUE Berrien County Office. She took the opportunity to sing praises for the work of the ANR Tech Services team in helping to convert their entire office over to be part of the ANR IT network. Previously the office had been served by Berrien County with IT support, and through the new MoA we have with Berrien County, it made more sense to switch over to the MSU system. Brian Hoort, acting as point person for ANR Tech Services, helped by first determining the services and functionality needed in the office. He then engaged colleagues Suporn Teng and Mike Walters in developing a plan, and then helped the Berrien County staff to purchase the right equipment and get it set up with the ANR system. Brian and the team helped with the conversion to the new network arrangement and continued to provide support through the Help Desk.

Joanne reports that they’ve been operating in the new system for seven months and “couldn’t be happier. At every opportunity, I urge educators from other counties to consider setting up as Berrien MSUE has done starting with a conversation with ANR Tech.”

Some additional comments from Deb Barrett help to explain the functionality they’ve achieved: “Webinar access is a piece of cake and I rarely have trouble with accessibility. Our previous system was so blocked that it prevented staff and our clientele from accessing and utilizing many online tools and resources that we can now easily access – thank you!

“The scanner, faxing and file share capabilities have been easy to use and work well. I appreciate and am relieved to know that files are backed up at MSU. The leap to wireless has allowed me to be more mobile and work from various locations with colleagues across the state while still accessing some of the information that I need. Now that I have had the opportunity to use SharePoint regularly, I appreciate its purpose and have found it quite handy for working with work group documents where our work group members stretch from corner to corner of the state, including the U.P.”

Those are the kinds of testimonials we like to hear! Thanks to Joanne, Deb and their colleagues for sharing their thoughts, and thanks especially to Brian and his colleagues in ANR Tech Services for making the system work. Remember to call upon them through the Help Desk or by calling 517-355-3776 if you need tech support.

Erica Ciupak, director of ANR Tech Services, joined me on the biweekly MSUE Update webinar this Monday, Sept. 17, with information on hardware purchases and service agreements. She also mentioned how to access support from her staff. You may want to review that portion of the webinar if you weren’t able to log in to the live session.

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‘If you see your stuff being used somewhere else…’

“…be sure to let us know.” It was with those words that Beth Stuever, communications manager for ANR Communications, ended her presentation on the May 21 Michigan State University Extension Update Webinar this week. Beth had finished presenting some data on the characteristics of users who are coming to the MSUE web site and the pilot News for Ag, News for MSUE web sites that preceded our current site. In our efforts to present our information in a more accessible, more timely way and in a way that shows the impacts of our work, we have leaned heavily on the professional expertise of Beth and her colleagues in ANR Communications. One of the lessons they have taught us is that it’s not enough to write a good piece, click on “Send” and assume our job is done. Actually, even an excellent communications product needs to be promoted – through social media, through traditional press releases and through the old-fashioned tool of “word of mouth.” The beauty of using electronic media as part of our communications tool kit is that we can quickly link it to other avenues that people may be following to capture information and insights. The ANR Communications folks are expert at making sure that our communications get linked into the main thoroughfares of information flow and get to the people who most need them and can be most influenced by our communications. I still feel like a novice at this, but I’m deeply appreciative of the expertise that our ANR Communications colleagues bring to our team. You can hear all of Beth’s presentation on the recording of this week’s webinar, beginning at the 9-minute mark at Thanks to ANR Communications for their help in making us better!

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Plan your work and work your plan with MI PRS

Developing a new reporting system is never easy. In our efforts to be accountable, we are challenged to respond to each of our funding sources to provide the kind of information they require to assess our work. As a result, we have a wide array of data that we collect and other information that is important but is not required. Multiply that by the number of individuals who are part of our system and you have an enormous challenge in developing a tool that is user friendly and offers us access to the critical data upon which many of us (myself included) depend.

The new MI PRS (Michigan Extension Planning and Reporting System) “Mippers” ­- as it is often called ­- was developed to meet that challenge. We’ll use it report on the community needs we address as identified by our stakeholders and key partners. Through the cycles of planning, implementing, evaluating, learning and changing we will improve and document our impacts. In essence, it is our blueprint and our recording device for planning and reporting. From the outset, we knew that we would need to conduct more thorough evaluations and collect additional data that, at times, go beyond the boundaries of MI PRS. When we find we need to do this, we still will want to capture the data and analysis from those supplemental evaluations in MI PRS, so we have a single source we can go to for data on our program outputs and outcomes.

I’d like to thank all of those involved who made MI PRS possible. Former associate director Michelle Rodgers, before she departed to take the helm at the Cooperative Extension at the University of Delaware, was the project lead. She made MI PRS happen. Erica Ciupak, director of ANR Technology Services, gave leadership to the software aspect of MI PRS with the help of Deb Mault, ANR Technology Services information technologist.

Bruce Haas helped in designing and adapting the new structure via institutes and work teams into the software design. Bruce implemented the training of MSUE staff in entering their individual plans based on institute work teams and customization that addresses local needs. Cheryl Peters, an evaluation specialist who assists staff with measurement of program evaluations and report writing, plays an important role in helping staff report outcomes and impacts into MI PRS.

With the change in our website, links to the MI PRS login page has changed. To find it, go to the ANR SharePoint site, click on the MSUE tab under links (lower right side) and then on the MI PRS login page. The direct URL for logging into MI PRS is

When you log into MI PRS, you will find a section called “Announcements” with links to resources. Under the 2012 State Plan you will find a PDF that links you to Word documents of 2012 Work Group Logic Models that are used when creating a new individual plan and using the wizard function. Educators should use their work team logic models to shape their individual plans. Educators and specialists should collaborate within their work teams in the planning process as well as in reporting.

Planning never starts with MI PRS. Planning starts with community needs and people. Once you have the plan, then you put it into MI PRS. Once you have made impact, you report it.

Other links on the MI PRS homepage include online trainings for both planning and reporting, list of themes in the narrative section, reporting leave days, SNAP-ED Activity Report and EIS Reports.

If you need help in deciding what to evaluate and measure, contact Peters. For assistance in putting your data into a working plan and into the MI PRS outcomes, contact Haas.

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Help us keep the new website’s soft launch from having a rough landing

If you listened to my April 2 webinar and read the email that went out immediately following its conclusion, you know that we’ve launched a temporary site for our new MSU Extension website.

 I know I sound like a broken record, but please DO NOT share this site with others or bookmark it. It’s just a temporary location for everyone to see and the URL will change to our standard when it is formally launched.

 My thanks to ANR Technology Services (who developed the framework) and ANR Communications (the folks who are populating the site). They’ve done a great job.

 But I want to stress again that the site would not be possible without the work of our educators and specialists who identified the more than 80 categories that make up the site’s structure. They provided category descriptions and identified programs and resources. They’ve been delivering volumes of new content to the site every month.

 You’ll notice that since this site is temporary, certain features (like the search feature) are not functioning yet. Not to worry. We intend to have the search feature up and running in the final product. When I say “final,” I don’t mean static. This will be a dynamic website. We’ll regularly add up-to-date information from knowledgeable sources – our educators and specialists – that will keep bringing people back to the site. I’m confident reliable content coupled with ease of use will make this site one that’s visited often.

 Please share your ideas and information for the site with ANR Communications by April 16. Let ANR Communications know if there are any broken links or inaccuracies (such as in county contact information) or if you have questions or suggestions about the information that the site contains.

 Please send changes and comments to your institute’s representative within ANR Communications:

 Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute: Beth Stuever
Children and Youth Institute: Michelle Lavra
Greening Michigan Institute: Sean Corp
Health and Nutrition Institute: Katie Alexander

 You may also submit feedback or changes to this ANR Communications department email address.

 The site will close from April 16 to 23 for final adjustments. It will go live April 24. I hope that you are as pleased as I am about the outcome of all the work and looking forward to the positive comments from the folks who visit.

 I want to call out once again our colleagues from ANR Tech services and ANR Communications who helped keep us moving along: Dennis Bond, Kim Maida, along with Director Erica Ciupak from ANR TS and Sean Corp, Katie Alexander, Kathy Raphael, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Michelle Lavra, Steve Evans, Laura Probyn, Fran Adelaja, and Mindy Pratt (whose name I missed on Monday) from ANR Communications, along with former Director Ruth Borger and Interim Director Kris Hynes. Thanks to all of you for keeping us moving forward!

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MSU Extension News educates on current issues

You may have heard the recent controversy about “pink slime,” or LFTB (lean, finely textured beef). Our own Michigan State University Extension News published an article by Jeannine Schweihofer, Extension educator, and Sarah Wells, outreach specialist in the Department of Animal Science, that gives consumers the facts about LFTB, which have been misrepresented in the media. This is a great example of how MSU Extension News produces timely unbiased information about current important issues based on expert knowledge and research. Of course, we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years. We’re just doing it through today’s technology.

 Read the article at

 Read more articles at MSU Extension News at

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ANR Events Management System goes live

It is with great pleasure that I can announce this week that the new Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Events Management System is now live! After months of hard work by ANR Technology Services and ANR Events Services, the new system has come to fruition, and it’s ready for your use. We are also excited to announce that there are already four programs in the system and ready for use, thanks to Terry Gibbs, John Partridge, Natalie Rector and Diane Smith.

 The ANR Events Management system is available online at The initial version has a full array of features, and we plan to offer even broader service applications to the software as we continue in the months ahead.

 In order to access the system, you will be required to log in using your ANR ID and password. If you have not already participated in one of the event management training webinars, I encourage you to attend one. It will provide you with an overview of the system and allow you to learn how easy it is to set up your events. View dates and times for upcoming trainings on the Michigan State University Extension Professional Development website.

 I just want to take a moment to thank Bob Kriegel, Jim Brija, Megghan Honke and Betsy Braid for their initiative and dedication in designing and building this system.

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ANR Communications offers helpful graphic identity resources

Has this happened to you? You may be getting ready for a workshop or sending out some information to the people we serve and you realize you need the proper Michigan State University Extension wordmark to insert in your newsletter or you need an MSU Extension PowerPoint template to prepare for a workshop you’re giving. The Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications website has the solution to your graphic identity crisis.

Visit Using the dropdown box under the “Tools” menu item, choose “MSU Extension Graphic Identity.” On this Web page (, you’ll find MSU Extension wordmarks with helpful descriptions indicating how and when to use various Extension wordmark file formats. You’ll find information on purchasing letterhead, business cards, name badges and apparel as well as templates for PowerPoint presentations, brochures, flyers and certificates – even a link to the MSU brand and graphic identity standards.

Note that high resolution MSUE wordmark files (large file size) are located within the “Logos and Graphics” area in the ANR Communications SharePoint site. You’ll also find samples of MSU Extension banner artwork stored in this location.

To find CANR, MSU AgBioResearch, Project GREEEN and 4-H logos, graphics, templates and brand information go to and click directly on the “Tools” menu item, which will take you to On this page, in addition to graphics and templates, you’ll also find links to media release forms, Web guidelines and a curriculum development guide.

If you know of other graphics or templates you believe would be useful to add to these collections, please contact ANR Communications at

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