Tag Archives: george silva

Congratulations to MSU Extension distinguished staff

Congratulations to Philip Schwallier, George Silva and Lois Wolfson, who received the 2018 Distinguished Academic Staff Award from Michigan State University. What do they all have in common? They have Extension appointments, and they are making a difference statewide and nationwide. Read more about each person and their work in MSU Today.

The Distinguished Academic Staff Award recognizes the outstanding achievements of those professionals who serve MSU in advising, curriculum development, outreach, extension, research and teaching. Up to four Distinguished Academic Staff Awards are given annually. These awards provide universitywide recognition and reward to outstanding individuals with careers demonstrating long-term excellence and exceptional contributions to MSU.

On February 6, MSU Extension held a reception to honor Phil, George and Lois at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center where we heard from their nominators, Amy Irish-Brown, Ron Bates and Jo Latimore, respectively. A huge thanks to everyone who attended the reception and who participated in putting it together. Please join me in congratulating Phil, George and Lois.

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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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Educators shine at NACAA conference

A group of seven of our Michigan State University Extension educators attended the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference (AM/PIC) July 20‒24 in Mobile, Alabama. Attendees included Phil Durst, Tom Guthrie, Phil Kaatz, Stan Moore, George Silva, Mike Staton and Nancy Thelen.

“The AM/PIC provides a wide variety of educational and networking opportunities from which we learn and are inspired,” said Phil Durst, senior Extension educator and president of the Michigan Association of Extension Agents (the Michigan affiliate of the NACAA). “This is also a great team-building time.”

Phil let us know that the conference offered 65 seminars on a variety of agricultural topics and super seminars provided opportunity for in-depth study of topics such as climate science and agriculture, farm business transfer, and soil health and cover crops. Educators went on more than 20 tours that focused on agricultural enterprises, resource management, business and local attractions. An exhibit featuring more than 100 professional posters provided a glimpse of a wide variety of research and educational projects. Dr. Dana Chandler of Tuskegee University provided the keynote address on the role of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and Thomas Monroe Campbell, all of Tuskegee, in pioneering Extension work.

As in years past, many of our colleagues received awards, presented or were involved in other ways.

Nancy Thelen received the Distinguished Service Award that encourages and recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension from NACAA members with more than 10 years of service. She also was the national winner of the Agricultural Awareness and Appreciation Award. In addition, she presented two posters at the conference about Breakfast on the Farm.

Mike Staton was a national finalist for a published photo. A team consisting of Ned Birkey, Dan Rajzer, Marilyn Thelen, Dan Rossman, Bruce MacKellar and Mike Staton were national finalists in the “Search for Excellence in Crop Production.” Mike had the opportunity to present the work at the meeting.

The Extension Dairy Team was a national winner for a promotional piece, the 2013/14 Dairy Programs booklet. The team includes Stan Moore, Kathy Lee, Phil Durst, Frank Wardynski, Faith Cullens and Craig Thomas.

Stan Moore and Phil Durst were national finalists for an audio recording, their “Dairy Moosings” podcasts.

Tom Guthrie and Phil Durst served as voting delegates.

Congratulations to all!

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Fall Extension Conference 2012 – Thanks!

Another Fall Extension Conference has come and gone, and I want to send my thanks out to all who helped make it a valuable and productive experience. I’m always overwhelmed by FEC as it approaches, worried not so much about how things will work – we have great colleagues who worry about that for us and their worry produces a well-run and cost-efficient conference – but more about how to make the most of this opportunity. In my comments on Monday and Tuesday, I tried to convey how grateful I am for the work this organization does and the people who work so hard to make it successful. I’m never satisfied that I’ve fully expressed how much this organization means to me and to Michigan. You are awesome, and I take great pleasure in each day that I get to work with you to help people improve their lives. You teach me a great deal. I hope you found the conference to be as nourishing (not only in food) as I did. And I thank you for being part of it.

The organizing team – Betsy Braid, Megghan Honke and Doug Brahee as co-chairs, and Julie Chapin, Dawn Contreras, Dave Ivan and Wendy Powers as steering committee members deserve many thanks and credit for making this as productive and meaningful as it was. I would also like to offer a special thanks to George Silva and Marilyn Thelen for helping develop the cross-institute session.

Watch your inbox for a survey to provide feedback on FEC 2012.

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Extension educator receives farm bureau award

Michigan State University senior Extension educator George Silva will receive the Eaton County Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award at the bureau’s annual meeting on Aug. 23. The award is presented annually to an individual who has contributed exemplary service to the agriculture community.

Dr. Silva was promoted to senior Extension educator in 2010. He’s worked as an Extension educator in Eaton County for 12 years where he implements integrated crop and nutrient management educational and applied research programs on corn, soybean, wheat, vegetables and specialty crops. Among many other responsibilities, he’s also contributed his expertise as an innovation counselor for the MSU Product Center and as coordinator of the Eaton County Master Gardener and Junior Master Gardener programs. In addition to Eaton County, he has Extension responsibilities in Barry, Ingham and Livingston counties.

Dr. Silva joined MSU in 1986 as a research specialist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. He became an Extension educator in Ingham County in 1996 and acting county Extension director for Eaton County in 2009.

No stranger to awards, Dr. Silva received the 2007 Eaton County Farm Bureau Educator of the Year Award, numerous National Association of County Agricultural Agents communication awards and an MAEA Presidential Citation in 2007, among others.

Congratulations, George!

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CV-CAT will help Extension educators integrate climate change into programs

Excuse the pun, but climate change is a hot topic. Increasingly, our stakeholders and our funding partners look to Michigan State University Extension as a trusted source of information on how to slow down, adapt to and communicate about the changing climate. The long-term impacts of climate change and the shorter term effects of climate variability vary widely, ranging from changes in precipitation, pests, water and air quality to storm water runoff, forest ecology and species migration. And, as we’re all aware, the topic can be controversial. That’s why Julie Doll, MSU Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program outreach and education coordinator, and Claire Layman, public policy education specialist in the Greening Michigan Institute, embarked on a listening tour to discover what one group of stakeholders – those involved in field crop agriculture – thought MSU Extension should do to help farmers prepare for the changing physical and policy climates.

 Julie and Claire brought their focus group results to field crop educators in March 2011. They paired delivery of the focus group results with a workshop on climate science, led by Dr. Jeff Andresen, state climatologist and associate professor in MSU’s Department of Geography. At the conclusion of the two-day workshop, participants came to agreement that MSU Extension should increase the climate literacy of its educators and their clients.

 As a result, the Climate Variability and Change Action Team (CV-CAT) formed with members across all of our institutes and from other Extension affiliates. Current members of the team include Julie and Claire; Dr. Andresen; Jake DeDecker and Brian Wibby, Children and Youth Institute; Becky Henne and Brenda Long, Health and Nutrition Institute; Chuck Pistis, Sea Grant; and Dennis Pennington, George Silva and Marilyn Thelen, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute.

 The CV-CAT has sponsored three fact sheets available at the MSU Extension Bookstore: (Greenhouse Gas Basics, Field Crop Agriculture and Climate Change and Frequently Asked Questions about Climate Change). In addition, they are co-hosting a face-to-face session at Fall Extension Conference on climate and water. Panelists and individual speakers will provide overviews of the water and climate systems, lead a discussion on how climate variability and change may affect Michigan communities, land systems and agriculture, and consider how to find common ground on this politically polarizing topic. Read the summary for the FEC11 session, “Climate and Water: Implications for MSU Extension Programs,” here. The live face-to-face session takes place Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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Discovering optimists from a war-torn country

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of addressing a group of scholars from Iraq. They were faculty members from several Iraqi universities here for several months on a Fulbright-sponsored program to learn from each other and with Michigan State University colleagues about how to create universities anew from within a nation that has been the focus of strife for decades. Dr. Frank Fear, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was one of several MSU administrators who helped to create and conduct the extended study group throughout the summer, and he invited Dr. David Schweikhardt, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, and me to give an overview of the land-grant university system. My part was to explain the cooperative Extension system and how we conduct Extension in Michigan. It was an engaging conversation with the Iraqi participants, some of whom are from agricultural disciplines and some of whom are from engineering disciplines.

 Dr. George Silva, senior Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, took the group on a tour to learn about agricultural practices in the Lansing area in late July, and from all accounts they were enthused to get out of meeting rooms and into the real world where they could learn directly about agricultural practices in Michigan. George wowed them with his thoroughness and hospitality.

 I had some follow-up conversations with several Iraqi colleagues and particularly with Dr. Sardar Sardari, professor of poultry science at the University of Salahaddin in Erbil in northern Iraq. Dr. Sardari is working to establish a cooperative Extension program at his institution that would help to bridge applied research to the needs of farmers in northern Iraq. Dr. Sardari and I met for lunch one Friday to discuss some of his ideas about building Extension into his home college, the College of Agriculture, and I was overwhelmed by his enthusiasm, his positive outlook and his profound gratitude for the opportunity to learn and to build something anew. I was humbled to realize that as difficult as the past two years of restructuring and budget reductions have been for us, our challenges pale in comparison with what he and his colleagues face. His guiding perspective is based on the faith that out of considerable destruction and disorder, the human spirit that we all share, when bonded together in common purpose, can create tremendous results. And when that common purpose is centered on extending information and understanding in a way that helps people to improve their lives, the world is transformed, one person, one family, one farm, one business, one community at a time.

 It was rejuvenating for me to spend time with Dr. Sardari and his colleagues, to be reminded of how profound our mission is and how that mission can overcome tremendous challenges in transforming lives. After our lunch, I walked with Dr. Sardari through a construction zone on Harrison Street in East Lansing to show how to get to the Islamic Center for the Friday prayer service. The walk was a poignant one for me. The disruption of a street closed for construction with sidewalks broken and crumbling was of no consequence compared to the faith that drew him to prayers. I realized that broken concrete and disrupted traffic were the norm for the life he has experienced over the past decade. As I returned to my office, I was imbued with new hope and determination for his country and for ours. The positive outlook, persistent faith and commitment to serve I witnessed can help each of us as we continue in our process of remaking MSU Extension.

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