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Tools for employees having controversial conversations surrounding GMOs

corn field

According to a Pew Research Center report, “the way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction as people follow personal preferences reflecting their beliefs about how foods connect with their health and ailments.”

As Michigan State University’s (MSU) connection with Michigan residents, MSU Extension professionals are increasingly engaged in conversations about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But in a survey conducted by our program evaluation specialist Cheryl Eschbach, only 37 percent of Extension survey respondents felt capable of replying to GMO-related questions with science-based information, and only 1 percent felt extremely capable.

Recognizing a need, Ron Bates, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (AABI) director, brought together a cross-institute committee to develop a training for MSU Extension professionals. The result was a two-day training, “Getting your GMO Questions Answered 101,” offered January 8-9, 2018. MSU faculty and Extension professionals shared presentations on research and technology as well as communicating with clientele about GMOs with over 100 Extension staff members.

“It was a really great workshop,” Extension agriculture and agribusiness educator Jeannine Schweihofer said. “I think it helped me to hear viewpoints from different aspects and concerns that people have about GMOs. Getting the right information out there so people have it is really important.”

“The GMO workshop increased my understanding, and that will help me to confidently answer consumer questions about GMO foods that arise during my food safety programs,” MSU Extension health and nutrition educator Beth Waitrovich said.

Ron Goldy, MSU Extension agriculture and agribusiness educator and event committee chair, felt the event was successful in opening up dialogue and providing tools to talk to MSU Extension clientele, especially during the interactive activities.

This workshop was designed to be the first of many opportunities to provide MSU Extension professionals with resources and to open up dialogues.

“We’re hoping that people from other institutes will take the idea back, and that institute will develop a program with their clientele’s concerns in mind,” Ron said. “There will be further trainings within AABI, and we’re trying to figure that out as well. As soon as we hear back from the event evaluations, we’ll decide on the next steps.”

Additionally, the committee is working on creating an online space to make the documents and presentations from the workshop available to all Extension employees.

I would like to thank the team of people who made the event possible: Ron Bates, Betsy Braid, Erin Carter, Julia Darnton, James DeDecker, Mary Dunckel, Cheryl Eschbach, Theodore Ferris, Elizabeth Ferry, Ron Goldy, Rebecca Grumet, Courtney Hollender, Rebecca Krans, Joyce McGarry, George Silva, Lisa Treiber, Kendra Wills and Garrett Ziegler. I’d also like to thank all of the speakers and presenters throughout the event.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, communication, Events, Farming, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, professional development, Resources

Extension educator receives Friend of the Fair award

Beth Ferry, Michigan State University Extension pork educator in Cass County, received the Berrien County Youth Fair (BCYF) Friend of the Fair award, Oct. 26 at the BCYF annual meeting.

Beth was presented with the award due to her involvement in helping fair officials to prepare for health issues that could arise with the livestock at the fair and more importantly assisting them as they worked through a swine influenza (SIV) outbreak following the fair this year.

She worked with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Department of Community Health and the BCYF to find a workable solution to handling the outbreak and informing exhibitors and the public of what transpired. She also helped communicate with the packers that received pigs from the fair. Beth’s work will continue, as the fair will utilize her as a resource to assist with the creation and implementation of a vaccination program for the swine project, providing information and educational materials for exhibitors, leaders and event staff.

Congratulations, Beth!

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Step II and Step III promotions approved by MSU

The Michigan State University Provost’s Office has approved promotions of 10 Extension academic staff members to Step II and five to Step III. Step II is awarded after successful completion of a three-year and six-year portfolio review process, and is analogous to the promotion to associate professor rank for faculty. For individuals appointed in the MSUE Continuing Employment (CE) system, Step II also comes with award of CE status. Step III is awarded to Extension academic staff members who have demonstrated excellence and scholarly achievement in their work as Extension professionals over a sustained period. Those who are awarded Step III achieve “senior” status, analogous to achievement of the professor rank among faculty, and their titles are changed by addition of the senior modifier to the title of educator, program leader or specialist.

 Individuals who were successful in the Step II process this year include:

  • Janis Brinn, Children and Youth Institute
  • Kittie Butcher, Children and Youth Institute
  • Ryan Coffey, Greening Michigan Institute
  • Elizabeth Ferry, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • Andrew Hayes, Greening Michigan Institute
  • Glenda Kilpatrick, Children and Youth Institute
  • Betty Jo Nash, Children and Youth Institute
  • Nikki Rothwell, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • Brad Slaughter, Michigan Natural Features Inventory
  • Dixie Ward, Greening Michigan Institute

 Those who were promoted to senior status this year include:

  • Phil Durst, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • Kathy Lee, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • Amy Irish-Brown, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • George Silva, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
  • Jane Herbert, Greening Michigan Institute

 Congratulations to all for this significant achievement. You can learn more about the Step II and Step III processes in our Administrative Handbook at Step I, Step II and Step III Promotions.

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