Tag Archives: bindu bhakta

MSU Extension staff member named CANR Staffer of the Month

Betsy Braid, Michigan State University Extension educational program coordinator in Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Event Services, has received the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Staff Advisory Committee September 2015 Administrative/Technical Staffer of the Month award.

The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within his or her college or unit.

Steven Safferman, associate professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, and Bindu Bhakta and Terry Gibb, Extension educators in the Greening Michigan Institute, nominated Betsy. The three recognized her for her enthusiasm and efficiency in taking on the coordination of the MSU Extension Comprehensive Onsite Wastewater Management Education Program. They believe her tackling this challenging program shows the “spirit of MSUE.”

Congratulations to Betsy and thanks to Steven, Bindu and Terry for nominating her.

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Making connections in Washington, DC

PILD Conference left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery.

MSU Extension delegation at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD Conference, along with a few retirees – left to right: Phil Durst, Tom Coon, Seaman Knapp (Iowa, Texas, and USDA), Lynnae Jess, Rep. Asbury Lever (South Carolina), Bindu Bhakta, Sen. Hoke Smith (Georgia), Deanna East, Bev Przystas, and Sharon Jeffery. The conference took place April 6-9 in Alexandria, Va. near Washington, D.C.

I had the good fortune of spending some time with colleagues from Michigan State University Extension at the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference in the Washington, D.C. area this week. The conference offers workshops and features speakers on the federal side of the partnership that makes up Cooperative Extension. It also provides opportunities to meet with leaders in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) who support and work with Cooperative Extension programs across the country. The capstone to the conference was visiting Congressional offices to meet with elected members of Congress and their staff members to help them learn about what we do in MSU Extension to help people improve their lives.

This year’s conference had a good dose of history in recognition of the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the federal partnership with land-grant universities and county government to form our uniquely American institution. We even had life-size cut-out figures representing Seaman Knapp, Congressman Asbury Lever and Senator Hoke Smith. Knapp pioneered the concept of farm demonstration agents, which gave rise to Extension agents, and Lever and Smith were the co-sponsors of the Congressional Act, which carries their names. Lever was from South Carolina and Smith was from Georgia. The seven Spartans at the conference couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity with Knapp, Smith and Lever.

I was joined by Bindu Bhakta, Phil Durst, Deanna East, Sharon Jeffery, Lynnae Jess and Bev Przystas, each representing his or her professional Extension association.

 

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Grandparents University – a professional and personal opportunity

Grandparents University, scheduled for June 24–26, provides an opportunity for 8- to 12-year-olds to experience life on the Michigan State University campus. They get to live on campus, eat where the college students eat and even take classes. An added enhancement is that they do it all with their grandparent or favorite adult. Besides sparking an interest in potential future Spartans, the event brings alumni back to campus, providing an intergenerational experience that creates a connection between the participants and MSU.

More than 1,000 participants from 35 states and Canada attended the 2013 Grandparents University. A post-event survey reflected extremely positive reviews.

Kathryn Reed, assistant director of alumni relations and special events in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, invited me to encourage you to be a part of this unique experience by lending your expertise to presenting a session. Many who take part say that participating in Grandparents University is one of their favorite activities. It’s one of those experiences that you’ve heard about – the kind that after it’s over, people overwhelmingly say they get back more than they give.

You’ll also gain professional experience. It’s an opportunity to hone teaching skills and materials, to learn public opinion on the topic you cover and to think about your subject from a different standpoint due to the diversity of the participants.

Last year, Extension educator Laurie Rivetto presented a financial management session and pronounced it “a ton of fun.”

Laurie normally works with youth using the MSU Extension 4-H-created Spartan Dollars and Cents budgeting simulation. The Grandparents University session allowed her to use the simulation with both adults and children.

“Although my target audience is usually youth, this session had the additional outcome that the adults got a lot out of it, too, “said Laurie.

The adults found it challenging in the simulation to have to stick with a limited budget. Many remarked that it helped them to relate to different budget scenarios that others might be grappling with. For example, some found they could not afford to purchase health care insurance within the budget and a discussion took place about the challenges of this arrangement.

Laurie also said that taking part in Grandparents University gave her a different perspective.

“It was neat to be a part of a program that involved so many different departments and units, including Extension, at the University. It was a great team effort,” she said.

This year Extension educator Frank Cox will join Laurie in presenting Spartan Dollars and Sense. They’ll also present the Wonderful World of Work in which the generations will learn from each other about work.

Grandparents University 2011 participants take part in one of the many sessions offered at the Michigan State University annual event.

Grandparents University 2011 participants take part in one of the many sessions offered at the Michigan State University annual event. Courtesy of Grandparents University.

If you decide to present, you’ll need to target your 90-minute session to the 8- to 12-year-old audience, making sure that what you present is a fun, interactive, hands-on lesson that holds kids’ interest. You don’t have to be limited to the classroom. You can conduct your session in a lab, on the farm or another location. Need more than 90 minutes? You can sign up for two 90-minute sessions, given as Part I and Part II. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Why not just adapt a program or outreach effort you currently teach?

Interested? Contact Kathryn at 355-0284 or at kreed@msu.edu by November 7. (The deadline has recently been extended.) When you do, please let her know the following:

  •  The name of the session leader
  • Session title
  • A short description that can be included in promotional materials (3 to 5 sentences long)
  • The number of people the session can accommodate (Sessions are as small as 10 people and as large as 200. The average is about 25.)
  • The name of the person coordinating
  • If a specific classroom or lab is required
  • If there is a day or time during these three days when the session cannot be led (if known)

Last year, in addition to Laurie, Extension educators Jed Jaworski, Georgia Peterson, Dixie Sandborn and Jessica Wright participated. Charles Gould, Paul Gross, Dennis Pennington and Mark Seamon have participated for years but were unable to present in 2013. These four have already committed for 2014.

Others who have presented in the past include Laura Allen, Bindu Bhakta, Constance Costner, Dale Elsoff, Andrea Grix, Vanessa Holmes, Betsy Knox, LuAnne Kozma, Cyndi Mark, Emily Proctor, Kama Ross, Erica Tobe and Sheila Urban Smith.

By the way, several faculty members on campus have used their Grandparents University sessions in grant applications when an outreach or other similar component is required.

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Professional environmental and outdoor education association recognizes MSUE contributors

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) honored several Michigan State University Extension colleagues from our Greening Michigan Institute’s Natural Resources Literacy and Leadership (NRLL) signature program at the statewide professional educators’ association annual conference Oct. 13 at Michigan 4-H Foundation’s Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.

Steve Stewart, MSUE senior Sea Grant educator from southeast Michigan, received the 2012 William B. Stapp Award, which recognizes statewide, career-long commitment to environmental education. Nominators noted Steve’s national and international leadership in Great Lakes education and his commitment to developing science-based systems of teacher and volunteer professional development. Steve felt honored by the award particularly as he was able to meet and learn from William Stapp early in his career.

Andrea Grix received the 2012 Julian Smith Outdoor Education Award, named for the MSU faculty member known as the father of the international field of outdoor education. The award goes to one individual who has made outstanding contributions to outdoor education in Michigan and who exemplifies the best in the field of outdoor education. The individual must demonstrate a lifetime of devoted service with at least 10 years of that service in Michigan. Andrea serves as program manager for the Michigan 4-H Foundation at the Kettunen Center and provides leadership for state youth and adult conservation education. She serves as the Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council program coordinator and as a resource person for state-level Michigan 4-H Environmental & Outdoor Education programs. She assists with 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp, and she has served on the MAEOE Board.

Bindu Bhakta, MSUE Oakland County educator, received the Recognition Award, for an individual who has made significant contributions to the fields of environmental and outdoor education. Oakland County Parks (OCP), a significant programming partner of MSUE, nominated Bindu for this award. OCP noted Bindu’s leadership impacts through the Michigan Conservation Stewards program, the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership program and other watershed-based educational partnerships.

David Holt, an MSUE conservation steward, received the 2012 Volunteer Service Award. David volunteers tirelessly with Oakland County Parks. Using his MSUE volunteer development background, and building on more than 15 years of volunteer experience of his own, he spent more than 30 hours monitoring grassland birds at Highland Oaks Park during 2011 and 2012. His field work has improved park natural resources management of these birds.

Two teachers from the MSUE-sponsored Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative received Appreciation Awards. Rebecca Heckman of Inland Lakes Schools and Brian Matchett of Alcona Community Schools bring real-world stewardship learning to students through partnerships with conservation organizations, resource agencies and businesses. Brian is a 4-H alumnus of the Michigan 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp for teen leadership, and he has served as a staff member.

Congratulations to this group for their professional impacts throughout the state, within the Great Lakes region and with international circles for their work in Natural Resources Literacy and Leadership!

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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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New soil test self-mailers are a team effort

In a past Spotlight, I wrote about the efforts of the Consumer Horticulture Team to simplify the process by which consumers can submit samples of their soil for testing to get an accurate assessment of soil quality for their lawns or gardens. The result was a soil test self-mailer.

 Now, thanks to the hard work and creative efforts of the soil test team, the new Michigan State University Extension’s Home Lawn and Garden Soil Test Mailer (E3154) is now available through the MSUE Bookstore. Past kits handled lawns and veggies only. These new kits, strictly for homeowners, include all home and garden uses – lawns and veggies as well as trees, shrubs, annual flowers, perennial flowers or fruit.

 I want to thank the soil test team for their diligence in bringing this product to fruition.

 Back in 2006, Mary Wilson led an effort in MSU Extension Oakland County to increase staff efficiency, decrease turnaround time for soil-test customers and create consistency between counties in the soil-testing process. Of course, the main goal remained to protect water quality while helping people grow healthy plants. At that time, large counties would receive 600 to 800 homeowner soil tests to interpret. Mary submitted a regional Project GREEEN grant proposal to develop a related soil test website. Funded in 2007, website production involved Mary, Jeremy Lounds (the current programmer), Kevin Frank and Ron Calhoun.

 The Oakland County soil testing initiative led by Bindu Bhakta generated hundreds of homeowner soil samples. Consumers turned their samples in at local garden centers.

 Mary recalls, “We would then pick up the samples and deliver them to campus. It was a very inefficient and cumbersome process during a very busy time of year. We kept brainstorming about how to improve efficiency, make the program less cumbersome and be cost effective. During one of our brainstorming sessions with support staff person Linda Smith, we came across the idea of a soil test self-mailer based on one created by Clemson University. Bingo! We thought it would be great solution. And, we could couple the self-mailer with the soil-test interpretation website…”

 The soil test team includes Bindu Bhakta, Bert Cregg, Jon Dahl, Rebecca Finneran, Kevin Frank, Mark Longstroth, Jeremy Lounds, Cheryl Peters and Mary Wilson. Jennie Stanger and Allen Krizek were involved with the project before they retired.

 Bindu Bhakta became project leader in 2009, keeping the project moving and on track. Under her leadership, the project received additional funding from two MSUE PREF (Program Recovery Funds) grants for development and implementation. Both Bindu and the soil-test team members took this on in addition to their regular tasks, developing the soil test self-mailer and completing work on the MSU Soil test website so it could develop custom recommendations for home lawn and garden soil samples.

 How does the soil test kit work? Customers order a kit online from the MSUE Bookstore at http://web2.msue.msu.edu/bulletins2/product/soil-test-kit-selfmailer-1116.cfm. The cost is $25. The kit contains everything a home gardener needs to submit a soil sample for testing to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory (SPNL). SPNL will analyze the sample and contact the customer through email. The email will contain a direct link to the MSU Soil Test website where the customer can view his or her fertilizer recommendation and any necessary pH modification instructions. Customers without email or Internet access will receive printed copies of their personalized recommendations from the SPNL. Counties may also order soil test mailers to sell through their offices.

 Thank you to all who made this project possible. With creative use of technology, our staff worked together to come up with an efficient solution.

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MSUE contributes to the award-winning Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT)

The Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) recently won two national awards. The application won the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2010 from the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation. It also was one of four innovations to receive the State Program Innovation Award from the Environmental Council of States.

 What’s the WWAT? The WWAT is an application designed to estimate the likely impact of a water withdrawal on nearby streams and rivers. Use of the WWAT is required of anyone proposing to make a new or increased large quantity withdrawal (more than 70 gallons per minute) from Michigan waters, including all groundwater and surface water sources, prior to beginning the withdrawal.

 Why the WWAT? In coordination with the signing of the Great Lakes Compact, Michigan and the other Great Lakes states were charged with the mission of developing a statewide program to manage and regulate new and expanding large water withdrawals. Michigan responded by enacting new laws, several of which called for the development and use of a Water Withdrawal Assessment Process to manage large quantity water withdrawals. Using science as the basis for policy development, a team of scientists and agency personnel developed the process to assist individuals in determining if their proposed large capacity water withdrawal will likely cause an adverse resource impact to a nearby river or stream.

 Who’s responsible for the WWAT? That’s a complex question since so many people and organizations worked together to make the WWAT a reality. A number of individuals were associated with the development and “roll out” of the WWAT including members of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and scientists from the University of Michigan and others. A Legislated Ground Water Advisory Committee worked on this effort for several years. Our own Michigan State University Institute of Water Research (IWR) has played a key role in several steps of the legislation and assessment process. Prior to the legislation on the Water Withdrawal Assessment Process being passed, Jon Bartholic, director of the IWR, provided testimony to the state Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Policy committee and worked with Senator Patty Birkholz’s committee on public hearings throughout the state. Jeremiah Asher, IWR, created the Web-based tool. Following the development of the tool, David Lusch, senior research specialist, MSU Center for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Science and IWR, and Jeremiah Asher were the two main presenters at a series of workshops throughout the state. Lois Wolfson and Ruth Kline-Robach, Michigan State University Extension state water quality coordinators, organized and evaluated the meetings.

 Lyndon Kelley, MSU Extension, and Steve Miller, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, organized and presented another series of workshops. Dave Hamilton and Frank Ruswick, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Paul Seelbach, Department of Natural Resources, provided outside assistance for these workshops

 In addition, MSU Extension educators were hard at work presenting other educational meetings and programs. Roberta Dow held a meeting on the WWAT as part of the MAEAP Phase I. Lyndon Kelley and Christina Curell presented WWAT information as part of four separate Extension education programs. Others who held meetings on the tool included Terry Gibb and Bindu Bhakta.

Jane Herbert, MSU Extension at Kellogg Biological Station, and Luke Reese, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at MSU, organized a webinar with David Lusch as the speaker.
 
Paul Seelbach, formerly with Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Jane Herbert developed a bulletin of frequently asked questions (Extension Bulletin WQ60) concerning the Water Withdrawal Assessment Process, Considering Aquatic Ecosystems: The Basis for Michigan’s New Water Withdrawal Assessment Process.

So as you can see, it took a considerable team across multiple agencies and with a variety of expertise to make this award-winning process and application possible.

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