Tag Archives: ask an expert

10 facts about MSU and eXtension you didn’t know

Chris Geith, CEO to the eXtension Foundation, provided me with some exciting news and information about eXtension. The mission of eXtension is to help Cooperative Extension System professionals increase their measurable local impact by helping them accomplish their work more effectively using an online constellation of people, resources and tools. Michigan State University Extension has a long and active history with eXtension and continues to partner with this great initiative. Here are 10 facts about our involvement with eXtension that you didn’t know.

  1. In 2015, 2,446 questions from Michigan residents were answered using the Ask an Expert system.
  1. 167 MSU Extension specialists, educators and volunteers helped to answer these 2,446 questions through Ask an Expert.
  1. eXtension also has two communities of practice led by MSU: All About Blueberries, led by Extension educator Mark Longstroth, and Community Planning and Zoning ‒ Land Use Planning, led by Extension educator Glenn Pape.
  1. For the Land Use Planning Community of Practice, MSU Extension and eXtension are partnering to pilot a third-party service to see if we can increase the usefulness of content and potentially generate new revenue sources together.
  1. This pilot partnership is not out of the ordinary; MSU Extension has a history of building new models with eXtension – such as MyHorseUniversity, which continues to have a strong relationship with the HorseQuest community of practice.
  1. Three members of the newly formed i-Three Issue Corps are from MSU: Mariel Borgman, Kaitlin Wojciak and Garret Zeigler. They are contributing to the Michigan Supply Chain Wizards that will address key issues in food systems and climate.
  1. MSU Extension also has almost 40 online courses available through the eXtension Campus/Moodle Because of MSU’s premium membership with eXtension, there are several important benefits available to MSU Extension staff.
  1. Recently awarded to MSU Extension, the $1.48 million New Technologies in Ag Extension grant includes instructional design by Gwyn Shelle, administrative support provided by Angela Jernstadt, with Chris Geith serving as the primary investigator.
  1. Gwyn is also a recipient of one of nine Innovation grants eXtension awarded last year out of almost 50 proposals submitted. Gwyn and Katie Ockert are presented at the National eXtension annual conference that takes place in San Antonio, Texas, March 22‒
  1. Bruce Haas served a critical role as a key advisor to the i-Three Issue Corps in the new “boot camp” at the event.

Thanks to Chris for welcoming me and sharing such great news from eXtension.

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Handy tools assist callers with questions

It’s our job at Michigan State University Extension to educate the public. Part of that education involves answering questions on the fly. We might be the person answering the phone when that question comes through but we’re not the expert on the subject. What’s the best way to help people get expert answers to their questions?

 First, connect them to the person that does know the answer. How best to do that? You can search the MSU Extension “Ask an Expert” athttp://msue.anr.msu.edu/experts/search. This helpful tool will help you locate an Extension expert in their county. Give them the contact information for the expert and also tell them about Ask an Expert so they can use it themselves.

 To aid our colleagues who often have the opportunity to answer the phones and emails that come in from Michigan residents, there’s a helpful tool to send to people who have made inquiries. You can easily email this list of resources to clients when they call.

 MSU Extension executive staff assistant Terri Badgley helped put together the document and has seen firsthand how helpful it can be. She’s sent the document as an email attachment to callers after doing the expert search and providing the caller with the expert’s contact information.

 Terri said, “I’ll provide the caller with the phone or email information they’re asking for, but then I also mention, ‘We have some awesome online resources you’ll also want to have. What’s your email address so I can send those to you?’ Nine times out of ten, the caller is delighted to provide their email.

 “We think constituents will appreciate having these resources for future use and may cut down on phone calls … with that said, we are very purposeful in including our individual contact information for that ‘personal’ touch and possibly follow up. We also like the idea of the consistency across the state in how we each respond to callers,” she said.

 I encourage you to take Terri’s advice and make use of the document. Have it handy to send to that next caller. You can find it in SharePoint under MSUE ALL STAFF. It’s called “MSUE Resources to Callers.”

 It’s not just a resource that support and clerical staff can use. Educators, specialists and others might have occasion to use it as well.

 Senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg and Extension human resources coordinator Gina Flores are offering online sessions on this very topic – helping clients with questions. Sign up by June 17 for the June 26 session here: http://events.anr.msu.edu/event.cfm?folder=HowToHelpMayJune14

 Here’s also another helpful tool that Lela brought to my attention. It’s called “Finding Answers in MSUE and eXtension: A Guide for Support Staff.” It offers eXtension tools and gives links to helpful research-based websites recommended by institute directors and program leaders. Find it on the Organization Development website at http://od.msue.msu.edu/uploads/files/PD/Finding_Info_in_eXt-_Staff_2013.docx

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Extension specialist receives outstanding educator award

Michigan State University Extension specialist Karen Waite received the 2013 Equine Science Society Outstanding Educator Award at the society’s 23rd Symposium awards banquet in Ruidoso, New Mexico, on May 31.

The Equine Science Society presents the Outstanding Educator Award to a society member involved in teaching, extension or industry who has demonstrated excellence in the area of equine education to students or to persons in the industry. The award recognizes the development of programs that are exceptionally effective at disseminating research-based information in a manner that has an effect on the long-term well-being of horses, the horse industry or both.

Karen received two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from MSU and is currently working on a doctoral degree researching competitive equestrian activities through the theoretical framework of sports psychology. Karen started her MSU career in 1997 as a research assistant in Brian Nielsen’s lab. Dr. Nielsen is a professor in the Department of Animal Science and president of the Equine Science Society. In 2000, Karen became the equine Extension youth specialist. In 2008, she became the equine Extension specialist, overseeing both adult and youth equine-related programs.

Karen is a leader in integrating technology into educational programs targeted at the horse community. An active member of the eXtension HorseQuest Community of Practice, she lends her expertise as a curriculum writer, developer and expert for “Ask an Expert.” She is also an integral part of the My Horse University faculty, where she regularly presents webinars.

Congratulations, Karen!

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MSUE Consumer Hort Team wins eXtension award

With reduced budgets and staff and increased programmatic responsibilities, Michigan State University Extension staff must maximize limited time and resources to meet growing demands. With those challenges in mind, the MSUE Consumer Horticulture Team faced the daunting task of delivering science-based, environmentally sound information to more than 8 million gardeners. With a firm grasp of the importance of technology and a collaborative spirit, they not only met their responsibilities but also won an award for their efforts.

The consumer hort team along with Bindu Bhakta will receive the eXtension Working Differently in Extension Award Oct. 2 at the National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City. The team consists of Bob Bricault, Rebecca Finneran, Gary Heilig, Hal Hudson, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson.

Senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg nominated the team for the award, which recognizes the team’s engagement with clientele, co-workers and others in new and different ways and the demonstrable impacts made. It provides an opportunity to show how the team works online and within a learning network.

In 2010, the team launched the “Gardening in Michigan”website as a platform to offer a variety of online classes and resources. The website now serves thousands of people. In early 2011, the team decided to add an Ask an Expert (AaE) widget to the website’s front page. But before they put up the widget, they would need experts to answer the questions. The team worked with the MSUE eXtension Institutional Team to develop an AaE training process suited for advanced Master Gardeners. Fifteen Master Gardener volunteers were recruited and trained online in Adobe Connect, allowing the launch of the AaE widget in June 2011. Through the widget, the team answered more than 700 questions in 13 months.

But the team did not stop with the widget. Thinking a statewide hotline to answer gardeners’ questions a good idea, they used technology to link existing county hotlines together under one toll free number to provide the service 24/7 to all counties. Having the hotline required more training for more volunteers. The training established uniformity and quality control. Within one year, calls increased by one thousand, and the hotline has served clients from 80 percent of Michigan’s 84 counties. I wrote about the hotline in a previous Spotlight.

You’ve also heard me talk about the new soil test self-mailers in a previous Spotlight. The team created the kits provided with a postage-paid return mailer consumers can purchase online from the MSU Extension Bookstore. The consumer mails the soil sample in to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab. Once the folks at the lab analyze the sample, the consumer receives an email with results and access to an interactive website, which provides customized fertilizer calculations, instructions on correct application and links to AaE and additional resources on the Gardening in Michigan website.

Additionally, the team redesigned the Master Gardener program to reduce volunteer management time and create a statewide, easy-to-replicate program integrating a hybrid in-person and electronic delivery method. These efforts will lead to greater focus upon the educational products, which translate to more trained Master Gardeners and increased involvement of those volunteers in local community development projects.

 When asked about the team, Lela said, “MSUE’s Consumer Horticulture Team is an inspiration to all of the MSUE work teams and a model for working smarter with reduced resources. They have risen to the challenge when faced with cuts in budget and personnel, and creatively implemented transformational change in the way we satisfy the educational and informational needs of Michigan gardeners. The team deserves this award!” I couldn’t agree more. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their leadership in helping to transform MSU Extension.

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Extension will wow participants at Ag Expo with new information and experiences in CANR Tent

Michigan State University Extension looks forward to having a big presence at the 33rd Ag Expo this year. The event runs July 17–19 at the corner of Mt. Hope and Farm Lane on the MSU campus.

Faculty, educators and specialists will be on site, offering educational sessions and demonstrations. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Tent will brim with educational exhibits and demonstrations from the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Firewise, the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development, the Health and Nutrition Institute and others.

Master Gardener staff members and volunteers will present gardening sessions: Gretchen Voyle on tomato diseases, Hal Hudson on drip irrigation and Jarred Morris on cucurbit downy mildew.

Breakfast on the Farm, led by Extension educators Mary Dunckel and Nancy Thelen, will present a large walk-through experience showcasing what Extension is doing to educate consumers about modern food production.

Joyce McGarry, Extension educator, will present food preservation tips.

James Whaley, a Bryon 4-H’er and entrepreneur, will educate visitors about raising poultry.

And to answer any other visitors’ questions, Extension experts will staff the “Ask an Expert” booth.

Don’t leave the Expo without your free MSU Dairy Store ice cream. Donations for the ice cream go to the CANR Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Ag Expo, Michigan’s largest outdoor farm show, gives us another opportunity to reach out to Michigan residents.

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MSUE educators honored as distinguished academic staff

Two Michigan State University Extension educators received MSU Distinguished Academic Staff Awards at the annual University Awards Convocation Feb. 14 at the Pasant Theatre in the Wharton Center. The awards presentation followed President Lou Anna K. Simon’s Founders’ Day Address and discussion of the 2012 State of the University report. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources honored the awardees with a reception prior to the ceremony in the atrium of Agriculture Hall.

 The award recognizes the outstanding achievements of academic specialists and MSU Extension academic staff members who serve the university in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research and teaching.

 Roger A. Betz, senior Extension educator, is the person Michigan agricultural producers go to for help in all things financial. Since 1990, Roger has served as district Extension farm management educator, using a variety of educational methods to effectively disseminate knowledge. Roger is dedicated to assisting farmers to successfully manage their operations through sound financial practices. Roger has worked face to face with several hundred farm families to make sound business decisions that assist them in managing their tax obligations. These decisions lead to growth of the farm businesses and contribute to economic growth at the local and state levels.

Roger Betz

Roger Betz, senior Extension educator, received an MSU Distinguished Academic Staff Award on Feb. 14, 2012.

 He’s used the University of Minnesota’s FINPACK financial management software to help more than 600 Michigan farms manage their finances. He created and developed a worksheet to supplement FINPACK’s financial analysis, which was incorporated into this nationally used software.

 Roger has provided leadership and coordination for the TelFarm accounting program. His work with TelFarm producers not only benefits the farm families but also provides valuable research data for MSU. He developed several electronic tools designed to help producers make very complex decisions about whether to take part in various USDA programs.

 For 18 years, Roger has conducted two, full-day financial training sessions a year for Extension educators. He also developed and taught an intensive three-year training program to build his fellow Extension educators capacity and confidence in working with producers in financial and farm management.

 Roger is an innovator and effective leader who is passionate about helping both farmers and co-workers. And if anyone ever doubted that, they would have been convinced by the four farm families who attended the ceremonies on Tuesday because he has meant so much to them.

 Lela L. Vandenberg, senior Extension specialist, has served MSU Extension for the past 18 years.

 Lela formed MSU Extension’s LeadNet team, a professional development group composed of multiple teams collaborating to develop curricula and materials, conduct workshops and encourage leadership development in strategic planning, conflict resolution and team building. Several of these curricula were adopted by other organizations and in other states.

Lela Vandenberg

Lela Vandenberg, senior Extension educator, received an MSU Distinguished Academic Staff Award on Feb. 14, 2012.

 In 2009, Lela assisted the integration of MSU Extension into eXtension, the nationwide collaborative Web presence for Cooperative Extension. As team chair of the MSU eXtension Institutional Team, she promoted and implemented this new technology, ultimately changing how technology is used within Extension.

 She created a training process that helped us successfully conduct two virtual Fall Extension Conferences, the first of which was a weeklong conference attended by more than 600 staff with more than 100 online meetings. She took the lead in developing an extensive training process to orient staff to use Adobe Connect Pro to teach, collaborate and assist online conference training.

 As part of a team who worked intensely to engage MSU Extension horticulture staff in “Ask an Expert” training and use, Lela was instrumental in expanding horticulture information to residents across the state. She helped design and coordinate numerous online “Ask an Expert” training sessions for staff and Master Gardener volunteers.

 Simply put, she’s a leader in leadership. Her contagious enthusiasm encourages others to get involved and take the lead. We’ve known that around MSUE and perhaps we’ve taken it for granted. What’s been fun to see is how others around the country have discovered the wonderful colleague we have in Lela.

 Congratulations to both of you!

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Collaborate across state lines through an eXtension CoP

In last week’s Spotlight, I talked about how Michigan State University Extension works across state boundaries using Dr. George Sundin and the apple scab project as an example. I noted that Dr. Sundin collaborates with experts from other states in a way that integrates research and extension. A great way to collaborate across state lines is to join an eXtension Community of Practice (CoP). A CoP is a virtual network of content experts – faculty, specialists, industry experts, clientele and government agency representatives – who share knowledge or competence in a specific content area. Simply put, they work together virtually to advance research and education.

 CoPs create or assemble a database of educational products and resources, peer review educational products, contribute answers to questions from Ask an Expert and maintain ongoing engagement with the communities interested in their field (Communities of Interest).

 Among the benefits that far outweigh the work involved are opportunities for collaborative research with colleagues from multiple institutes and disciplines, access to the latest technology and more efficient delivery of educational services. If you’d like to find out about further benefits, want to join a CoP or maybe even create your own, visit the MSU Extension Professional Development portal site at http://www.msue.msu.edu/portal/default.cfm?page_id=377802&pageset_id=298464.

On the right top of the Web page, click on the title “Community of Practice: What – Why – How.” This will bring up a Microsoft Word document that will answer all of your eXtension CoP questions. I encourage you to get involved.

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