Category Archives: Uncategorized

Asking your help to grow our leadership and organizational culture

This year, we are working with the Michigan State University (MSU) Office for Survey Research to gather feedback about the leaders in our organization and our culture as a whole. You have received two emails from Karen Clark in the MSU Office for Survey Research, inviting you to take part in the 2017 MSU Extension Employee Feedback Survey. This survey is a combination of the administrative leadership feedback survey we’ve done each year and the culture surveys we began two years ago. From your responses, we hope to hear what you have to say about the people who hold leadership positions in our organization: institute directors, associate institute directors, district coordinators, the associate director and myself. How are we doing? What are we doing well? Where could we improve or grow? We also hope to continue to look at our organizational culture and grow the areas that you identify as needing growth. Just remember to submit your thoughts by Wednesday, Sept. 20. Thank you for investing time in building our organization and our future.

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Pre-college experiences and growth at 4-H Exploration Days

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Over 2,400 youth and adults registered to attend 4-H Exploration Days, which took place June 21–23 at Michigan State University (MSU). This fun MSU pre-college program for youth ages 11–19 is designed to help them develop important skills such as responsibility, independence, accountability, communication, problem-solving and more.

“4-H Exploration Days is the highlight of the summer for some youth,” MSU Extension educational events program coordinator Laura Potter-Niesen said. “They come to campus to get a taste of what college is like. They often are pushed to make their own decisions about time management, their preference for activities and choosing friends. It’s the first time some of the youth experience independence, and that is an important feeling for youth, especially at this age.”

Over three days, youth had the opportunity to take classes, navigate campus, stay overnight in dorms, eat in campus cafeterias and take part in activities of their choice.

This year, 4-H Exploration days featured some new courses. Laura told us that their new session on making root beer using science, technology, engineering and math skills was a hit.

“They were able to make their own root beer to take home and were able to learn about the chemistry behind the brewing process,” Laura said.

MSU Extension senior educator Debra Barrett wrote an article about another new, full session that gave youth the opportunity to create a resume and a portfolio for job interviews.

Before coming to 4-H Exploration days, youth attended a county orientation to prepare them for their experiences on campus. Kea Norrell-Aitch wrote an article about the new diversity and inclusion activity designed for these orientations this year.

Since the event “…attracts such a diverse audience, it was determined county orientations were the perfect platform to incorporate an activity that will provide 4-H members with an opportunity to increase life skills around diversity prior to attending such a large statewide program,” Kea wrote.

4-H Exploration Days hosts about 2,500 youth and adults annually, some who are new to the program and others who keep coming back every year. One participant from Luce County wrote in her evaluation:

“This is my seventh, and final, 4-H Exploration Days year. Seven years ago, as a new sixth grader, I signed up for a class and rode a bus where my toes didn’t touch the floor. Now, at the age of 18, I make my way back to MSU in the fall as a member of the class of 2021 – something 11-year-old me vowed never to do. Thank goodness for that human ability to change. I can’t thank 4-H enough. For hot, sticky nights in dorms. For the half a dozen overworn, faded T-shirts and for the friends I’ve made here. I believe in commitment. In seven years of dedication, I believe in 4-H Exploration Days, and – more importantly – I believe in myself and my ability to create change in the world.”

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our staff and volunteers for all of your efforts to put together an outstanding and impactful program for Michigan youth.

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Gearing up for Ag Innovation Day 2017

Our second annual Michigan State University (MSU) Agriculture Innovation Day is almost here. The event takes place August 24 at our Lake City Research Center. The theme this year is Focus on Forages and the Future. I hope that you’ll spread the word about this program, and I would like to invite you to join us as well. There’s a great line-up designed to deliver a cutting-edge, in-depth look at forages, livestock and the future to help farmers meet growing demands.

Here are the sessions that will be offered:

  • Making the Most of Reduced-Lignin Alfalfa in Your Operation
  • Precision is the Division in Silage
  • Expand Your Use With Double-Cropping
  • Precision Dairy Cattle Monitoring
  • Finding the Right Mix for Soil Health
  • Baleage Made Tight, Made Right
  • Creating Profitable Beef Operations by Managing Land, Livestock and People
  • Grass-Fed Beef – Research and Experience
  • Is Your Land Regenerating?

Another important element of the day is that MSU will send recruiters to the event to provide students with information about all of the degrees available through the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We want to engage our next generation of farmers and producers, and give them the tools they need to meet the challenges they will face in the future.

We’ll also have an opportunity to hear from President Lou Anna K. Simon and Dean Ron Hendrick over the dinner portion of the event.

The event will begin at 12:30 p.m. and end around 9 p.m. For course descriptions and to register for the event, visit the Ag Innovation Day website. I hope to see you there!

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Help us transform our new employee orientation

What do you remember about your first day working for Michigan State University Extension? Do you remember what type of orientation experiences you had and whether or not they were helpful? What do you wish would have been different? Anne Baker, our new learning and talent development specialist, joined us a little over a month ago, and has had her own experiences with our orientation program. One of her first projects in her mission to guide our training and development efforts is to work with us all to create meaningful orientation practices. Her first step is receiving your feedback on your orientation experiences. I hope you’ll find a moment to take her short, anonymous survey using this link: https://msu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0Uv1iZlit55mj09.

The more of us who respond, the better Anne can understand our organization’s strengths and weaknesses of welcoming new employees, so that we can transform that experience together. Thank you for your help.

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Welcoming Bill Hendrian as interim district coordinator

Headshot of Bill Hendrian.

On April 1, 2017, we will welcome Bill Hendrian into the position of interim District 4 coordinator for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension. Bill will work with local governments, nonprofits, school systems and neighborhood groups to help ensure that MSU Extension provides the knowledge and resources necessary to identify and address the challenges facing communities in the district. He will also mentor MSU Extension staff members based in his district in professional development and in program planning, delivery and evaluation.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and get to know the people of District 4 as MSU Extension continues to do its part to enrich the lives of Michigan’s families with its broad pool of talented faculty and staff members,” Bill said.

We are looking forward to Bill stepping in as interim district coordinator because he understands the importance of strategic connections and relationships in expanding our outreach and has demonstrated that capacity in a variety of settings and opportunities.

Check out my post from last August if you’re interested in learning more about Bill, his work, and his strategic connections.

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The Inspiring 4-H Challenged Me program

During the 2016 Eastern Michigan State Fair, the 4-H Challenged Me program gave mild to severely disabled children from Lapeer, Macomb, Tuscola and Sanilac counties the chance to show livestock. The program had 17 members and 19 coaches who taught them how to handle, train, show and care for the animals. Two innovative 4-H alumni, Tiffany Howell and Michelle Peel, teamed up with the local intermediate school district social worker and the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension 4-H program coordinator, Kathy George, to set the program in motion. In January, the 4-H Challenged Me Club was chosen as a Program of Excellence by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Read the full story, “4-H Challenged Me helps kids make a new connection,” by Laura Scott, and see the photos on the MSU Extension website. Let it challenge us to think about ways we can reach people of all ages who have special needs or are underserved.

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Welcome to 2017

Firework display against a dark sky.

I would like to start out by wishing you a happy new year and welcoming 2017. I hope you all were able to spend time with your loved ones during the holiday season and as 2016 came to a close.

2016 was an important year for me because in April I became the director of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension after serving as interim since January. I have had the privilege of serving MSU Extension and getting to know and work with so many of you. In 2016, we also welcomed Ron Hendrick as the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In reflecting on the past year, here are some takeaways that I would like to share.

  1. We can use our history, relationships, knowledge and expertise to develop new ideas, approaches and opportunities that to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Creative interventions and 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.
  2. MSU Extension’s response to the Flint water emergency is a testament to who we are as an organization already in place to respond to community needs and emergencies. We need to continue to reach out and find ways to work together across institutes and to engage community, government and volunteer organizations to serve our constituents.
  3. Our organizational vision surrounding strategic connections is built on the premise that every member of our MSU Extension team has responsibility for maintaining positive relationships with legislators, stakeholders and media in his or her community and throughout the state. In 2016, we had a chance to learn about our colleagues’ efforts to connect strategically in Districts 1˗9.
  4. We have an outstanding team here at MSU Extension that is recognized by the university and at state, regional, national and international levels. We also serve incredible young people who are going out and changing their communities, already empowered to take on leadership roles and build new opportunities.

Lastly, I would like to sincerely thank all of you for welcoming me and taking the chance to get to know me during my first year with MSU Extension. I am committed to continue to open doors and build connections that will allow your reach and impact to expand. I look forward to where 2017 will take us.

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