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May is Mental Health Awareness Month: 7 things you should know

Person sitting looking out over a lake and hills orange with sunset light.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Check out seven things that you should know about mental health that come from our Extension colleagues:

  1. Forgiveness is linked to better mental and physical health. Carolyn Penniman, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, writes that “A growing body of research on forgiveness is finding that people who forgive are more likely than the general population to have fewer episodes of depression, lower blood pressure, fewer stress-related health issues, better immune system function and lower rates of heart disease.” Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Adults can support the positive mental health of adolescents. Karen Pace, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, explains in her article that adults can support young people by maintaining open communication, helping them nurture their emotional intelligence, supporting the development of their social intelligence, and being positive role models with youth in their communities. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Nature is good for your mental health. Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, explains in her article that a growing body of evidence suggests time spent outdoors in nature boosts well-being, and the strongest impact is on young people. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Practicing gratitude yearlong has mental health benefits. Karen Pace describes the importance of “an active process of self-reflection about what’s really important to us . . . through gratitude journals, meditation, prayer, the process of creating art, movement, singing – or simply saying out loud to ourselves or others that which we are grateful for.” Cultivating the practice of gratitude can help youth and adults become more resilient during stressful times, painful emotions, difficult situations and challenges. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Digital technology can negatively affect mental health. Janet Olsen, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, writes that the overuse of digital technology can negatively affect sleep quality and cause frequent interruptions that can lead to increased problems with memory, attention, concentration and learning. Even our levels of empathy can lower. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. It’s important to become familiar with the definitions of mental disorders, mental health conditions and mental illness as we check in with our own well-being and that of our kids. In this article, Tracie Abram, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, explains mental disorder conditions and symptoms, and talks about how to get help. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. You can nurture your child’s mental health and make parenting easier by understanding how our brains work. In her article, Karen Pace describes research about the brain and the way it works in children that will give parents a better understanding of how to support their children. Find out more by reading her article.

Although I’ve shared seven great sources of mental health information, I encourage you to check out our MSU Extension website where we have even more resources put together by our colleagues. By understanding mental health, and how the brain works, we can engage in important nurturing practices in our own lives and with our families as we welcome the month of May.

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MSU Extension staff members receive NEAFCS awards

Many of our fellow Michigan State University Extension colleagues received awards at the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) annual session Nov. 5 at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Individual awards:

Joyce McGarry won a Continued Excellence Award, which goes to an NEAFCS member of at least 12 years. It recognizes active involvement in professional improvement programs, promotion of professional development and leadership. This is the highest honor awarded to NEAFCS members. Joyce has worked for MSU Extension for 17 years, concentrating in the areas of nutrition and food safety programming. She supervises nutrition staff in seven counties and provides leadership as co-chair of the Nutrition Physical Activity Work Team in the Health and Nutrition Institute.

Gail Innis and Brenda Long both won Michigan and National Distinguished Service awards. The award is given to members of 10 years or more. It recognizes Extension family and consumer science educators for leadership, outstanding programs, and personal and professional growth. Gail began working for MSU Extension as a program associate in 1991. She describes her current position as educator in both the Children and Youth Institute and the Health and Nutrition Institute as “the best of both worlds” where she can draw on the resources of both to serve families across the lifespan. Brenda is a senior Extension educator and has been based in Ionia County since 2002. Her programming focuses on health, financial capacity and homeownership education.

Brenda also received two national awards for health insurance education, collaborating with eleven state partners. She took third place for the Florence Hall Award, which recognizes NEAFCS members who have been alert in recognizing emerging issues or new concerns and interests of families or individuals and have planned and implemented programs that benefit families or individuals. She took first place for the Marketing Package Award for an outstanding marketing package promoting a program pertinent to family and consumer sciences issues.

Lisa Treiber won a national and Michigan Clean and Healthy Families and Communities Award. The award honors outstanding educational programming efforts that utilize any of the American Cleaning Institute’s educational materials in the areas of food safety, emergency preparedness or response, safe and effective use of cleaning products, and others.

Team awards:

Teresa Clark-Jones, Gail Innis, Carolyn Penniman, Suzanne Pish and Holly Tiret took third place nationally and second place regionally and in Michigan for the Early Childhood Child Care Training Award for the “RELAX: Alternatives to Anger for Parents and Caregivers Workshop.” The award recognizes outstanding childcare professional training that addresses the needs of young children. Over 600 participants have taken this workshop throughout Michigan and in West Virginia and Texas.

Teresa Clark-Jones, Bill Hendrian, Jean Lakin, Brenda Long, Julie Moberg, Pam Sarlitto, Beth Waitrovich, Chris Venema, (all NEAFCS Members), Jim Buxton, Moses Cantu, Angela Miles Griffin, Lauren Hale, Khurram Imam, Sharon Jeffery, Scott Matteson, Vivian Washington and Rob Weber (all non-MEAFCS Members) won a national, regional and Michigan Extension Housing Outreach Award for “Michigan State University Extension Housing Programs 2013-14.” The award recognizes programming that enhances housing outreach to communities and special needs families.

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Two MSUE all-stars honored at eXtension conference

A number of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues have been attending the fourth National eXtension Conference this week in Sacramento, California. Yesterday, two of our colleagues received honors for their contributions to the national effort to foster collaboration in the development of online resources to better serve our clients.

Michigan State University Extension director Tom Coon accepts the eXtension Champion Award on behalf of MSU senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg

Michigan State University Extension director Tom Coon accepts the eXtension Champion Award on behalf of MSU senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg at the National eXtension Conference March 26, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Lela Vandenberg was not able to attend the conference. Photo credit: C. Penniman.

Lela Vandenberg, senior leadership and professional development specialist, received the Champion award for her many contributions to the development and application of eXtension, the national web resource for Cooperative Extension. Lela has led the MSU Extension Institutional Team since 2012, and has been a key leader and facilitator for MSU Extension colleagues in understanding not only how eXtension can be a resource to assist them, but also how we can adapt and use technology to reach more people more effectively. Lela has been a leader at the national level as well, and is frequently invited to speak to and facilitate Extension colleagues at other institutions in the use of new technologies for Extension collaboration, learning and teaching. We’ve known of Lela’s many contributions because we’ve been the greatest beneficiaries of her insights and good will. What was especially exciting about the Champion award, the highest award given by eXtension, is that colleagues from across the nation recognize and appreciate her contributions and leadership. It’s an honor to have Lela as a colleague and a treat to be able to celebrate her achievements. Lela was not able to attend the conference this year, so I had the honor of receiving her award on her behalf, and it’s currently tucked in my suitcase, headed for Michigan. MSU Extension educator Carolyn Penniman was kind enough to take a photo of Lela’s award.

Karen Waite, senior academic specialist in the Department of Animal Science and the Children and Youth Institute, received the Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award. Karen was not able to attend the conference, so Betsy Greene, equine specialist at the University of Vermont and a collaborator with Karen on the HorseQuest eXtension Community of Practice, accepted her award on her behalf. Karen has made many contributions to the HorseQuest Community of Practice and has been a key leader in developing content relevant to the needs of youth and particularly youth leaders in equine programs. Together with animal science associate professor Christine Skelly, Karen has helped to create and expand the My Horse University online certificate program, which has benefited greatly from the collaboration of HorseQuest members.

Betsy Greene, University of Vermont Extension specialist and associate professor, accepted the "Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award" on behalf of  Michigan State University Extension specialist Karen Waite at the National eXtension Conference

Betsy Greene, University of Vermont Extension specialist and associate professor, accepted the “Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award” on behalf of Michigan State University Extension specialist Karen Waite at the National eXtension Conference March 26, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Karen Waite was not able to attend the conference.

Congratulations to both Lela and Karen for their recognition. And many thanks to both for being great leaders and innovators for MSU Extension! By the way, it was not at all surprising that the University of Delaware eXtension Institution Team received the Outstanding I-Team award at the ceremony yesterday. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension (and former associate director of MSU Extension), made a point of building a strong I-team when she began her role at Delaware two years ago. No one at MSU Extension should be surprised that her team has skyrocketed in their contributions to and use of eXtension. Congratulations, Michelle!

All the awards will be posted to about.extension.org/blog within the next few days. They’ll also be announced in the April eXtension UPDATE next week.

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MSUE colleagues share their insights on working differently with technology

MSU Extension educator Holly Tiret, MSU Extension director Tom Coon and MSU Extension educator Carolyn Penniman attended the National eXtension Conference

Left to right: MSU Extension educator Holly Tiret, MSU Extension director Tom Coon and MSU Extension educator Carolyn Penniman attended the National eXtension Conference that ran from March 24 to 27, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.

I was fortunate to attend the National eXtension Conference in Sacramento, California, this week, and was very pleased to see so many Michigan State University Extension colleagues there. Beth Stuever, communications manager, and Megghan Honke, event planner in Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications, gave a whirlwind overview of the integration of the new MSU Extension website and ANR Event Services. Bert Cregg, associate professor of horticulture, showed how he has adapted social media to engage blog readers in the planning of a research project on tree transplanting. Extension educators Carolyn Penniman and Holly Tiret showed how the RELAX – Alternatives to Anger team has used technology to reach a broader audience. Extension Health and Nutrition Institute educator Linda Cronk assisted in the presentation of the recommendations from a national task force on health (co-led by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension associate dean and director Michelle Rodgers) to a national meeting of Extension directors and administrators. In addition, several MSU Extension colleagues who provide leadership to Communities of Practice attended for CoP program planning and development, including Extension specialist Dionardo Pizaña, program leader Bruce Haas and specialist Wayne Beyea. What I found most gratifying was to see how eXtension, which has been of great assistance to MSUE, benefits in so many ways from the contributions of MSUE colleagues. Thanks to all who attended and those who engaged through online and recorded presentations. We’re having an impact nationally thanks to these great efforts.

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Extension program leaders create resource to address bullying in out-of-school settings

It’s evident when you listen to news reports, scan social media or just talk to folks – issues related to bullying, bias and harassment concern parents, educators, family workers and others who work with and care about young people. And, of course, these issues concern young people as well.

Schools have resources to address these issues, but few address bullying issues in out-of-school settings. As always in Michigan State University Extension, our staff members see a need and work to meet it. That’s why MSU Extension Health and Nutrition program leaders for social and emotional health Janet Olsen and Karen Pace created Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments.

BeSafe-Cover-BookstoreThumb

The two targeted the curriculum for use in out-of-school settings such as 4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, scouts and after-school programs. Be SAFE helps young people aged 11 to 14 partner with adults to create physically and emotionally safe environments.

The overall goals of Be SAFE include promoting social and emotional learning and development, addressing and reducing bullying, preventing bullying behaviors by tapping the wisdom and assets of youth and adults, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

Research shows that young people benefit from time spent in positive and safe settings with adults and peers. Adults can use Be SAFE as an important tool to help young people to create those safe, affirming and fair environments. The resource helps adults to help young people be resilient when facing challenging situations such as bullying, bias and harassment.

As true of all MSU Extension curricula, this publication draws from extensive research, and Karen and Janet also drew from evidence-based bullying prevention programs. A number of their MSU Extension colleagues also contributed to the development of Be SAFE by serving as reviewers and as liaisons to the nine sites across the state that piloted the material. These included staff members from the Health and Nutrition Institute (Tracie Abram, Denise Aungst, Carolyn Penniman, Suzanne Pish, Erin Ross, Olga Santiago and Holly Tiret), the Children and Youth Institute (Kendra Moyses and Jodi Schulz), and the Organizational Development Team (Dionardo Pizaña). Former Children and Youth Institute staff members Andrea Caron, Sandra Griffin and Julie Scislowicz were also involved with these efforts.

Janet and Karen are currently working to assist MSU Extension staff members in providing education around issues of bullying, bias and harassment. It’s not too late to register for a June 4 train-the-trainer opportunity in Gaylord. You’ll receive a copy of Be SAFE and learn how to incorporate the curriculum into your program. You’ll also explore current research on bullying and learn key strategies to address bullying issues. Click on this link to learn more and to register.

Download a free PDF of the Introduction section of Be SAFE or order a copy of the 224-page guide, designed and edited by ANR Communications, at the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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Extension staff members win NEAFCS awards, present at conference

Michigan State University Extension staff members won several awards at the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) national conference in Columbus, Ohio, Sept 27. The Michigan Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (MEAFCS) will recognize the educators at the membership meeting at Fall Extension Conference.

The Health and Nutrition Institute Food Safety Team was first place national winner and first place Central Region winner for Food Safety. The award recognizes outstanding educational programs conducted for families, school nutrition workers, food industry employees or managers, church workers preparing meals, home care providers, and other groups or individuals preparing or serving food.

The MSU Extension Food Safety Team received first place national winner award and first place Central Region winner for Food Safety at the NEAFCS national conference

The MSU Extension Food Safety Team received first place national winner award and first place Central Region winner for Food Safety at the NEAFCS national conference Sept. 27, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Pictured left to right: Associate Dean of UNL Extension Kathleen Lodl, MSU Extension staff members Eileen Haraminac, Lisa Treiber, Joyce McGarry, Beth Waitrovich and Jeannie Nichols and NEAFCS President Amy Peterson [not present Christine Venema, Pat Joyce (retired), Jan Seitz (retired)].

 Evaluated on program objectives, program accomplishments, program impact and support materials, the team received a score of 98 out of a possible 100.

Jeannie Nichols led the team that includes Eileen Haraminac, Pat Joyce (retired), Joyce McGarry, Janet Rathke, Jan Seitz (retired), Lisa Treiber, Chris Venema and Beth Waitrovich.

The team applied for and received a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant allowing them to provide statewide programming in 2011. They taught face-to-face workshops around the state and developed an online training at msue.anr.msu.edu/programs/cottage_food_law.

The workshops and online training taught Michigan residents about the new 2012 Cottage Food Law and the importance of food safety practices when preparing and selling cottage foods in Michigan.

Teresa Clark-Jones led the Financial and Home Ownership Education Team, made up of mostly Greening Michigan Institute members, that took third place in the Central Region for Communications – Internet Education Technology. The award recognizes excellence in Web-based programs or Web pages.

In addition to Teresa, team members include Connie Costner Borg, Dr. Lisa Cook, Kathy Hale, Jean Lakin, Wanda Repke and Erica Tobe.

The team created www.mimoneyhealth.org with education information related to financial literacy for the public to access. On the website, consumers can take the Financial Health Survey, in which each survey participant determines his or her financial health index score and receives resources to help increase the score.

Extension educator Carolyn Penniman won a Distinguished Service Award. The Distinguished Service Award is the highest award presented by the NEAFCS. The award recognizes members for leadership, outstanding program efforts and personal and professional development.

Carolyn has been part of MSU Extension for more than 14 years, providing education in parenting education, food safety, training for foster and adoptive parents, and financial literacy. She’s participated in international Extension training and led the Poverty Reduction Initiative for Charlevoix and Emmet counties. She used a United Way grant to provide two poverty simulation workshops and develop a Money Mentor program.

Besides winning awards, MSU Extension staff members were busy presenting sessions at the conference, lending their expertise to their colleagues. Health and Nutrition Institute Extension educator Suzanne Pishpresented a session at the conference from RELAX: Alternatives to Anger, an anger management program for young people, parents and caregivers.

MSU Extension staff members presented on the Cottage Food Law at the NEAFCS national conference

MSU Extension staff members presented on the Cottage Food Law at the NEAFCS national conference Sept. 27, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Pictured left to right: MSU Extension staff members Joyce McGarry, Rita Klavinski, Lisa Treiber, Jeannie Nichols and Beth Waitrovich. Photo credit: Eileen Haraminac.

In addition, Extension educators Joyce McGarry, Jeannie Nichols, Lisa Treiber and Beth Waitrovich of the Food Safety Team presented a session on the Cottage Food Law. Extension educator Rita Klavinski provided technology support at the conference.

Congratulations and thanks to all of our award winners and session presenters!

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