Tag Archives: dixie sandborn

Grandparents University: Why it’s important and how you can get involved

Have you heard about Grandparents University? It is the largest intergenerational program in the nation, Michigan State University (MSU) alumni are invited to bring their grandchildren to campus for a three-day summer camp where they choose from almost 200 sessions. Each year, Grandparents University serves over 1,300 guests. This year, 632 adults and 678 youth participated in the program, which took place June 27–29.

Grandparents University is an important collaboration and MSU Extension has been involved since the beginning. Grandparents University started 12 years ago when Kathryn Reed, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni relations director, and Mike Steger, former MSU College of Natural Science faculty member, learned about the program from Oklahoma State University.

“It began because it was a great way to showcase majors and bring alumni back to campus,” Kathryn said. “Extension helped bring in meaningful programming since the beginning.”

This year, we had five colleagues from MSU Extension host sessions, and here are their experiences:

2017 was the sixth year the MSU Beef Cattle Teaching & Research Center participated in Grandparents University. Daniel Buskirk, MSU associate professor and beef Extension specialist, led the session on beef cattle.

“We begin with an ‘entrance exam’ and then explore the MSU Beef Center in search of answers,” Daniel said. “The kids love learning about what cows eat, what a bull weighs and seeing young calves. The grandparents like learning about the science involved in beef production, animal care and the origin of beef cuts.”

Georgia Peterson, MSU Extension specialist, took students to MSU’s Sanford Natural Area, located along the Red Cedar River for her Exploring Our Forests session.

“We discussed the most common tree species found there, along with other plants and animals that call it home,” Georgia said. “As we walked the trails of this forest, the kids were especially interested in finding plants (including trees) that have special features, like the sassafras with its ‘mitten’ leaves and fragrant stems.”

Laurie Rivetto, MSU Extension educator, led two sessions of Spartan Dollars and Cents where 28 youth and 24 grandparents engaged in several activities such as Needs vs. Wants, the Allowance Game and M&M Budgeting. At the end of each 90-minute session, youth created a Spend/Save/Share/Invest bank.

“It was a great group, and youth and adults commented on how interactive and fun the sessions were and how much they learned,” Laurie said. “The program really encouraged conversation between the grandparents and youth. The participants were involved in engaging in a needs and wants continuum where they stand on a line based on how much they feel an item is a need or a want. Having two different generations participate leads to some different perspectives on what needs and wants are.”

Visit the Grandparents University website to see the recap video from 2017 that features Laurie’s Needs vs. Wants activity toward the end of the video.

Michelle Neff, MSU Extension educator, has been involved with Grandparents University for the past three years. This year, she led a new yoga and mindfulness session for youth and grandparents.

“I really enjoy teaching this audience because the grandparents and students are very eager to learn. It is also cool to see youth and adults come from all over the country and state to attend this event,” said Michelle.

Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension specialist, shared that during her Chocolate Culture and Creativity session, grandparents and grandchildren sample chocolates from around the world and make their own chocolate treats.

“Participants loved how hands-on and interactive it was. They also learn interesting facts and the science behind chocolate,” Dixie said. “For example, 200 cacao beans could once buy a turkey. During World War II, the Germans created an exploding, chocolate-covered, thin steel bomb, designed to blow up 7 seconds after a piece was broken off. People who eat chocolate one to three times per month live longer. The flowers of the cacao tree are only pollinated by tiny gnats.”

Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparents University as well as of the President’s Graduate Receptions, spoke to us about the importance of having Extension staff members host sessions.

“We love having new classes every year and we usually hope for 20 percent of classes that are new and different,” Amy said. “I’ve found that Extension has been amazing for us.”

Are you interested in hosting a few sessions at Grandparents University next year? The 2018 event is scheduled for June 26–28. The MSU Alumni Association will cover travel expenses for your participation and will also provide $10 per participant for supplies for your session. If you have any questions or want to learn more about hosting sessions, contact Amy at carnah10@msu.edu.

Don’t need any more information and are ready to sign up? Visit the Grandparents University Instructor Registration page.

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Filed under Children and Youth, Partnerships

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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Filed under health, Health and Nutrition, Parenting

Two of our colleagues receive 2015 CANR Outstanding Staff Member Awards

Congratulations to Judy Lentz-Bishop and Kelli Kolasa for receiving the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Outstanding Staff Member Award for 2015! This award recognizes excellence and outstanding service in the past year. Judy and Kelli received this award based on their growth and responsibility within their position; their decision making, leadership and communication skills; and their positive, can-do attitudes.

I hope you’ll be able to join us at the CANR Faculty and Staff Awards Picnic on April 13, 2016, where we can honor the contributions that Judy and Kelli have made to our organization. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the MSU Pavilion for Livestock and Agriculture Education (or simply “The Pavilion”). For now, make sure you mark your calendar and keep your eyes out for more details to follow.

Photograph of Judy Lentz-Bishop

Judy Lentz-Bishop,  recipient of the CANR Outstanding Staff Member Award. Photo courtesy of Judy Lentz-Bishop.

Judy just retired from her role as a transaction assistant in our MSU Extension Business Office, where she mainly supported the Children and Youth Institute (CYI). Judy showed leadership through attending professional development opportunities and using what she has learned to put on trainings for both on- and off-campus staff. She has a reputation for efficiency, effectiveness and knowledge of MSU Extension business procedures. She has served and interacted with more than 200 educators, program coordinators, and on- and off-campus specialists.

Several colleagues talked about how Judy is approachable, listens to everyone’s needs, takes initiative to solve any challenges and offers a safe space in which to ask questions.

“Judy is the person everyone wants on their team, she makes everyone feel like a friend and she truly cares,” Dixie Sandborn, Extension specialist said.

What a great way to go out with a bang. Though we are sad to see her leave, we wish Judy the best in her retirement!

Photo of Kelli Kolasa.

Kelli Kolasa,  recipient of the CANR Outstanding Staff Member Award. Photo courtesy of Kelli Kolasa.

Kelli is a transaction assistant in our MSU Extension Business Office who primarily supports our Health and Nutrition Institute (HNI). With the tragic loss of Bill Wilkinson, our colleage and fiscal officer for HNI, Kelli was there for the staff, volunteering to take on many of the immediate tasks and proposing creative solutions. Her efforts kept the work moving. Kelli also conducted important trainings for staff members. She displayed an outstanding level of commitment, leadership and patience throughout the past year.

Nicholas Bourland, HNI fiscal officer, said, “Kelli is a joy to work with and a dedicated worker. [Our] program staff have expressed their appreciation of her patience and helpfulness.”

We are so grateful to have Kelli on our team and continuing her outstanding service to our organization.

Congratulations again to both Judy and Kelli on their awards. Please remember to join us at the April 13 awards picnic!

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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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GLLA honors leadership for common good award winner and graduates, kicks off endowment campaign

On June 11, the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) held its Graduation Ceremony and Endowment Campaign Kickoff.

In addition, Dr. Russ Mawby, former president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and trustee emeritus of Michigan State University, was honored as the third recipient of the William Milliken Award for Leadership for the Common Good. Dr. Mawby helped to develop the original model for an agricultural leadership program that was funded by the WKKF in the 1960s. It became known as the Kellogg Farmer Study Program that was presented by the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program was replicated in dozens of states and other countries, and gave rise to subsequent leadership programs in Michigan, including the Michigan Agricultural Leadership Program in the 1980s and the Great Lakes Leadership Academy in recent years. Dr. Mawby’s legacy also includes having helped to create the Michigan 4-H Foundation. He and his wife Lou Ann were present at the GLLA banquet to receive the award. A summary of Dr. Mawby’s legacy was captured in this video, produced as an in-kind gift by the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Three MSU Extension colleagues were recognized as recent graduates of GLLA programs:

Sonia Joseph Joshi, outreach specialist for Michigan Sea Grant Extension and the NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health, graduated from the Leadership Advancement Program.

Bethany Prykucki, Extension educator, and Dixie Sandborn, 4-H horticulture specialist, graduated from the Emerging Leader Program.

The mission of the GLLA Leadership Advancement Program is to promote positive change, economic vitality and resource conservation, and enhance the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good. The program is designed for those who are preparing for top leadership positions.

The Emerging Leader Program is a leadership development initiative designed to equip individuals who are interested in their community and the food systems and agricultural, natural resources and environment, and business and manufacturing sectors with tools for successful leadership.

Vicki Pontz, GLLA director, announced the launch of the Capital Campaign for an endowment to support the ongoing success of GLLA. With a goal of $2.5 million, Vicki announced more than $400,000 in gifts and pledges to launch the campaign. The plan is to reach the campaign goal over the next year. With these initial gifts, the campaign is getting off to a great start.

Congratulations to Dr. Mawby, to our graduates and to Vicki for a great evening of celebration!

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Filed under Leadership