Christine Geith is currently the assistant provost and executive director of MSU Global at Michigan State University, which assists faculty in creating, facilitating and implementing impactful projects that lead to new research and funding opportunities and that enhance the reputation of the university community. However, she will be taking on a new role as CEO of eXtension as of July 1. Not only is it exciting that MSU is going to be present on a national level, but also Christine’s experience aligns well with our goals for improving partnerships both locally and nationally.
“I believe the time is now for eXtension to form even deeper partnerships with Cooperative Extension directors and administrators, and with a variety of organizations, to enhance the Cooperative Extension mission and accelerate its local impact. The new eXtension Foundation is well positioned to lead an expanded vision and enable the adoption of new ways of serving local communities for Cooperative Extension nationwide,” said Christine, in the eXtension press release announcing her new role.
Her experience in new technology, particularly distance education, will also benefit eXtension, helping it adapt to the changing environment of online education and the difficulties associated with keeping up with those changes. This will help eXtension find new ways to improve digital strategy. I hope that our staff members will continue to find new ways to partner with eXtension as that strategy develops.
Congratulations, Christine! We’re excited to work with you!
Four of our Michigan State University Extension educators from the Health and Nutrition Institute were recently honored with the invitation to join national teams, led by the Extension and Experiment Station committees on organization and policy. These committees act as the representative leadership and governing body of Cooperative Extension, and they provide guidance to issues affecting it. Cathy Newkirk was invited to serve on the national Health Literacy Action Team, Holly Tiret was invited to serve on the national Response Team for Positive Youth Development for Health Action Team, Linda Cronk was invited to serve on the Chronic Disease Prevention and Management Action Team and Sarah Eichberger was invited to serve on the Health Policy Issues Education Action Team.
Former MSU Extension director Maggie Bethel nominated them to take on these critical roles, and it was a large honor for them to be selected.
On their respective teams, Cathy, Linda and Sarah will work to connect with the broad-based effort “Healthy Food Systems, Healthy People” and, more importantly, make a difference for the individuals, families and communities Extension serves. The response team on which Holly was invited to serve will help respond to the ideas, materials and opportunities developed by the other action teams. These teams plan to position the research, Extension and academic programs functions of our universities for critical action against the health issues at hand.
Dawn Contreras, director of the Health and Nutrition Institute, reported that the process was very competitive. She noted that 11 out of the 12 states in the North Central Region nominated people for these committees, so Cathy, Linda, Holly and Sarah deserve a round of applause. Congratulations to our staff on this honor!
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.
It’s difficult to describe ANR Week—so many different programs addressing so many interests, needs and opportunities for Michigan and the Great Lakes region. But I heard Provost Kim Wilcox share an observation this week that captures it as well as anything I’ve ever heard. In his comments at the ANR Week Luncheon on Tuesday, he noted that as only the third speaker on the agenda, he had already heard the word “partnership” used 14 times. Subsequent speakers used the word, too.
In his comments, the provost pointed out that working in partnerships—within the university and with state agencies, federal agencies, private businesses, community organizations, individual volunteers, commodity groups, conservation organizations, and others—is a hallmark of the work of MSU, and that certainly includes MSU Extension. In fact occasionally MSU Extension stakeholders and staff members mention to me that they think we need to figure out how to get the word “cooperative” back in the title of MSUE. Years ago the decision was made that MSU Extension was a name that better represented our organization, reflecting the fact that we are the program that connects communities, families, businesses and organizations with MSU. And I don’t intend to change that. But it’s good to remind ourselves that we ARE the Cooperative Extension Service of Michigan, and as such link more broadly to the national CES system. More importantly, we are an organization that not only works in partnerships, but by definition, we do not EXIST without partnerships. It was great to hear the provost recognize and remind us of our own need for and commitment to working with partners.