Tag Archives: deanna east

National recognition for Flint water emergency response

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Michigan State University (MSU) Extension the Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership for our response to the Flint water emergency. The Abraham Lincoln Award is the most prestigious award presented by the secretary of agriculture. The Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership recognizes the exceptional contributions of USDA’s external partners in innovation, productivity and efficiency in program delivery and leverage federal funding to the benefit of USDA’s customers, the external partner and USDA.

MSU Extension received this honor for “successfully responding to stakeholder needs for information about combating the effects of lead exposure to Michigan communities by developing exceptional emergency response with limited staff, time, and budget.”

I had the opportunity to travel with Deanna East, Lynette Kaiser, Erin Powell to accept the award on behalf of our organization and everyone involved in the emergency response. The USDA Abraham Lincoln Honor Award ceremony and reception took place at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Although only three people traveled to D.C. to receive the award on Extension’s behalf, our efforts in Flint were carried out by a large group of committed and passionate staff members. Health and nutrition staff developed programming materials and efforts to address healthy eating to mitigate lead absorption. Children and youth staff worked closely with community partners to develop resources and programs to help parents promote activities that support cognitive development. Greening Michigan and agriculture and agribusiness staff provided gardening and accessing healthy food education and soil tests. And both MSU Extension Communications and ANR Creative helped produce the resources necessary to carry out their endeavors.

We’re looking forward to the opportunity to honor all of our staff members that were part of this vital team at the Fall Extension Conference. Congratulations to the MSU Extension team on your 2016 USDA Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership.

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Filed under Awards, Flint Water, Uncategorized

Getting the word out to Flint families

On Tuesday, April 26, MSU Extension participated in the Flint Farmers Market event held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and attended by representatives from state and local agencies, the media and the public. The event raised awareness about the nutrition assistance programs and guidance resources available to Flint residents.

During the press conference, speakers from many organizations and programs such as the Fair Food Network, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan joined USDA speakers to share about nutrition and program information. Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, spoke at the press conference, highlighting MSU Extension resources and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP‒Ed).

After the press conference, participants interacted with program staff during activities and demonstrations, and at informational booths. Our MSU Extension team provided a cooking demonstration, a Cooking Matters class and a Discover Michigan Fresh tour. They also set up a “fender blender” bike for participants to ride to create a healthy smoothie and taste the results of their efforts. The MSU Extension booth showcased our nutrition education curricula, fight lead brochures and class fliers.

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The event provided accurate information, brought partners together who support the efforts in Flint and delivered a cohesive message. The USDA took sounds bites and video footage to develop public service announcements for future use to reach out and educate more of the public about the important resources available.

Thank you, Dawn Contreras, Deanna East, Erin Powell, Lynette Kaiser, Rich Ashley and his son Gabe, Liz Josaitis, Maha Khrais, Shane Jackson, Nancy Latham, Becky Henne and Tom Cummins for your efforts to provide meaningful activities and content, and for representing MSU Extension at this successful event.

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Filed under Children and Youth, communication, Events, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications, Resources

Council important link between community issues and MSU

March 1 and 2, I had the pleasure of meeting with the MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. During their business meeting, we heard from Dr. Dan Grooms on Michigan State University’s work on emerging infectious disease in livestock and Deanna East, associate director of our Health and Nutrition Institute, joined us to talk about what MSU Extension is doing in Flint. We also got a chance to hear from council members about the work going on in their communities. That was exciting because the following day, the council members visited their state representatives and senators to share with them the impact that Extension has in their district.

Photo of the MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council spring meeting. Attendees are sitting around a table. Members give updates on the work that Extension and AgBioResearch are doing in their communities.

Photo of the MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Council spring meeting. Members give updates on the work that Extension and AgBioResearch are doing in their communities. Photo courtesy of Katie Nicpon.

The state council is an important group that helps MSU Extension and AgBioResearch link the issues of concern in local communities with the research and teaching at the state’s land-grant university, much like district councils do locally. If you don’t know your council reps and have an important MSU Extension event or program coming up, I encourage you to talk to your district coordinator about how you can become engaged with this influential team.

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Thoughts on my second month as director

The focus on Flint in recent weeks and the need to address important nutrition, child development, public health and community infrastructure issues has given us the opportunity to remind folks that MSU Extension has been in Flint for 100 years. We will be there for the next 100 years, and can be an important part of developing and implementing solutions that change lives. Your colleagues are making a difference. Deanna East is helping to coordinate the Michigan State University response in Flint. Eric Scorsone and the recently announced MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy are engaging local officials and testifying before the State Legislature. Erin Powell, Cathy Newkirk and many others are addressing nutrition issues on the ground. Terry McLean and the Edible Flint crew are working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and state officials to ensure that food is distributed in areas of greatest need. This is important work that underscores the breadth of our collective experience, the ability to respond quickly and the importance of partnerships that you have built over decades.

The critical role that MSU Extension is playing in Flint is replicated in every community throughout Michigan. But, seven weeks into my new job as part of your team, it is already clear that not enough people know who we are. Moreover, those who do know us well are not always familiar with the breadth and depth of MSU Extension programming. I met recently with an agricultural commodity CEO, for example, who indicated that labor force issues were among his biggest industry concerns. As we talked, it became clear that, although his interactions over many years had been primarily with our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (for obvious reasons), many programs in the Greening Michigan, Children and Youth, and Health and Nutrition Institutes would be potentially valuable resources to him in recruiting and retaining valued employees.

We often use a slide when describing “Who is MSU Extension?” that includes the following bullets:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff on Campus
  • Extension Educators and Senior Extension Educators
  • 4-H Program Coordinators
  • Program Instructors, Program Associates, Program Assistants
  • Support Staff Members, on and off campus; MSU or county employees
  • Funded by County, State and Federal Resources

While these statements are accurate and descriptive, what if, instead, we said things like:

  • Unparalleled statewide health education delivery system.
  • Business start-up, tech transfer and product development expertise.
  • Serve schools statewide; capable of gathering more than 2,000 kids and their families for a single event.
  • Rapid response for agriculture, human health and other emergencies, such as the current Flint water crisis.
  • Future funding growth to come from building partnerships!

You can help me in at least two important ways.

  1. Don’t hesitate to tell people about the great work you do, and add in a bit about what your colleagues do in many areas across the entire state. If you aren’t aware of all MSU Extension programs, the website is a good place to start.
  2. Help us to find even more creative ways to describe what we do and outlets for sharing that information with the world. What descriptive statements would you add to this list to describe “Who is MSU Extension?”

Consider browsing through our public value statements occasionally to refresh your memory about how all of your colleagues’ work makes a difference in Michigan. We work for an amazing organization. By working together we can ensure that more people understand how we can help positively change their lives, communities and businesses.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Financial education, Flint Water, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources, Youth development

Epsilon Sigma Phi recognizes friends and employees of MSU Extension

There have been a couple of very exciting awards received recently! At the 2014 Epsilon Sigma Phi National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, two very notable awards were given to friends of Michigan State University Extension.

Epsilon Sigma Phi is a professional organization for Extension professionals, and as part of their yearly conference, they awarded Deanna East and Frank Ettawageshik for their contributions to MSU Extension.

Deanna East, district coordinator of MSU Extension District 4, was recognized with an administrative leadership award. Epsilon Sigma Phi presents the administrative leadership award to recognize Extension professionals who have shown noteworthy administrative enthusiasm, performance and accomplishment during their Extension careers. Deanna has been with MSU Extension since 2003, and during her time, she has been the county Extension director in two counties, has supervised several health and nutrition programs, and has worked with the Birth-Five Program as a parent educator.

In addition, Frank Ettawageshik was recognized as a key partner of Extension. With his assistance and support, the Building Strong Sovereign Nations Program is being offered again for the third year as a training prior to the United Tribes of Michigan October quarterly meeting. This has allowed Building Strong Sovereign Nations to continue on a consistent basis in conjunction with the United Tribes of Michigan quarterly meetings. This scheduling provides considerable savings of time and travel cost, and encourages tribal leaders to participate in both of these important meetings. This joint program ties traditional teachings with a contemporary government focus. MSU Extension partnered with the MSU Native American Institute, the Indigenous Law and Policy Center of the Michigan State University College of Law, and several Michigan Tribal governments in 2005 to begin developing an educational program tailored to newly elected tribal leaders as well as tribal citizens interested in running for tribal political office. The employees of MSU Extension currently involved in this effort include Emily Proctor, John Amrheim, Brad Neumann, Beth Prykucki, Julie Pioch, Elaine Bush and Ann Chastain.

The contributions from both Deanna and Frank are very important to all of us at MSU Extension. Congratulations!

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Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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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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Genesee County voters approve millage to fund MSU Extension

The Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted in August to ask voters to approve a property tax millage dedicated to the support of Michigan State University Extension programs in their county. They had held a similar vote in November 2012, and that proposal, the last item on a very long ballot, failed. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters had another opportunity to decide this issue, and this time the proposal passed by a 55 percent majority. Funding for MSU Extension has been an issue for many years, and this five-year plan gives us greater certainty for staffing and program planning than we’ve had since 2005.

Many staff and stakeholders helped to inform voters about our programs and let them know how the millage would ensure ongoing availability of those programs. I’d like to thank and congratulate district coordinator Deanna East and Extension educators Darren Bagley, Julia Darnton, Terry McLean and Bob Tritten, 4-H coordinator Heidi Sovis, and the Friends of Extension group in Genesee County, led by volunteers Dee Godfrey and Ken and Diane Turland. County clerk John Gleason and State Senator Jim Ananich also provided valuable guidance and assistance.

Read more in this MLive article: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2013/11/genesee_county_voters_were_gen.html

In addition, find more information in this Davison Index article: http://davisonindex.mihomepaper.com/news/2013-11-07/News/Michigan_State_Extension_millage_passes.html

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MSU makes a healthy investment in Flint

On Tuesday this week, Deanna East, coordinator for District 9, and I were invited to attend an announcement in Flint that featured Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon; Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine; Neal Hegarty, vice president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; and Mike Brown, emergency financial manager of the city of Flint. Together, they announced a new initiative by the MSU College of Human Medicine that not only will double the number of medical students who complete the third and fourth years of their medical education in Flint area hospitals and clinics, but also will hire new faculty and assign them to the Flint “campus” for research and outreach services. MSU has pioneered a model of developing strong teams focused on particular health research needs with the development of a team of faculty who focus on Parkinson’s disease at the Grand Rapids campus. The plan is to repeat this in Flint, partnered with the area hospitals, and with a large investment from the C.S. Mott Foundation, perhaps narrowing down to two groups, each focused on a particular area. The area of health science research they plan to pursue is yet to be determined, because the college wants to engage the Flint community in helping to identify the needs that they feel need to be addressed.

 This kind of investment is exciting for any community. For the Flint community, it’s even more valuable as the area continues to rebound from the severe hardships they have encountered following a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in the area. Over the past decade, the only job sector in the area experiencing growth was the health services arena. A research enterprise based in Flint will only help to further accelerate that kind of growth.

 So why were Deanna and I invited to attend? We are fortunate to have a medical dean in Dean Rappley who understands the value of having professional educators and paraprofessionals embedded in the community to help translate research findings into practice – by consumers and by health professionals. And she realizes that MSU Extension is well equipped to serve as a key partner in that translation. Where this takes us is uncertain, but it really helps to reinforce the importance of our Health and Nutrition Institute in positioning us to help do what we do in Extension – translate research into practice. And with these kinds of investments at the university level, we are even better positioned to attract new investments in Extension to help us realize our mission in this area as well.

 There’s a lot to be done yet, much to be determined, but MSUE is invited to be at the table as the College of Human Medicine works to understand how they can have an impact in Flint and greater Genesee County. And we are ready.

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MSU Extension supporters rally to save Shiawassee County Extension from cuts by county

A grassroots movement of Michigan State University Extension supporters are rallying together to support our programs in Shiawassee County. Outside the county building in Corunna, Nov. 7, about 500 of our advocates protested the possible elimination of MSU Extension programs through budget cuts.

 The proposed Shiawassee County budget called for zero dollars to be allocated to Extension. In other words, it called for our organization’s elimination in the county. MSU Extension’s budget was reduced by more than two-thirds in the 2010 budget year. MSU Extension requested $70,530 for 2012, which was still a reduction of 31 percent from the 2009 budget year. As of Nov. 7, the Shiawassee County Finance and Budget Committee recommended to restore funding to last year’s amount of approximately $35,036. The Shiawassee County Board meets today to vote on the budget and determine the fate of MSUE in their county.

 As is often the case, the threat of eliminating MSU Extension in a county has provided an opportunity to showcase the difference our programs make in a county, and District Coordinator Deanna East and MSUE staff in the Shiawassee County office have provided details to news outlets and decision makers to show those impacts. Yet the most compelling cases for support of MSUE come from those who directly benefit from our programs, and folks in Shiawassee County have been pretty vocal these past two weeks in letting their elected officials know how MSUE is important to them.

 I received an email from Jennifer Weichel, Extension educator, earlier this week, in praise of supporters.

 Jennifer said, “We have given these volunteers the life skills they need to fight this battle and the confidence to speak up for what they believe in. I know that this means MSUE staff past and present in Shiawassee County have done their jobs, built capacity, relationships and served as examples of how to make a difference in the community and be catalysts for change. I am proud of everyone who is standing up by calling commissioners, writing letters, making signs and gathering the facts to build their case. As staff members, we have provided the facts and allowed the volunteers to determine their course of action.”

 We appreciate the support from the community, the people we serve. It’s even more important for us to get the word out about the great things we do for the state and continue to do the things we do so well that make a difference in educating the public and improving lives.

 As Jennifer continued to say in her email, “The most important message I have heard is WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and they want us to continue being a part of their lives – not just one week of the year but every day and for generations to come.”

 Read more and view a video here.

 Supporters of MSU Extension 4-H have launched a “Save Shiawassee County 4-H” Facebook page. Check it out for photos and updated information.

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