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Celebrating Graduates and 10 Years of Great Lakes Leadership Academy

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) graduation and 10-year anniversary celebration. First, I’d like to congratulate all of the graduates of the program, especially our very own Imelda Galdamez, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educator.

“The Great Lakes Leadership Academy has helped me believe in the power of leading from love, leading authentically through conflicts, trusting the process of change and working collaboratively across differences,” Imelda said. “As GLLA’s states on their website, ‘The value of people working together is greater than the sum of what they can accomplish alone. When power is shared and diverse voices are heard, solutions are more likely to benefit the community as a whole.’”

I’ve heard nothing but good things from the more than 400 participants like Imelda who continue to live GLLA’s mission statement by promoting positive change, economic vitality and resource conservation, and enhancing the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good.

The GLLA began with the aid of a planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It allowed the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), MSU Extension and Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (now AgBioResearch) to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders who represented communities and the food system, agriculture, manufacturing, natural resources and environmental sectors of the economy to collaborate on the elements of a leadership training program. The result was a program that presents leadership concepts in the context of current issues and brings together current leaders in government, nonprofits and industry to broaden their perspectives about key sustainability issues and consider how leadership for the common good can influence Michigan’s future.

I was thrilled when MSU CANR Dean Ron Hendrick asked that we move the management of GLLA to MSU Extension. GLLA has been developing and empowering leaders since its first cohort was formed in 2007, so it is a perfect fit with the work we do through the leadership and civic engagement work team within the Greening Michigan Institute.

We’re looking forward to welcoming GLLA into the MSU Extension family and the ability to shape the direction of developing and empowering Michigan leaders for the next 10 years and beyond.

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Year’s end points to a promising 2014

When we mark our time in years, it seems as inappropriately scaled as documenting nutrition in units of feasts. Normally we don’t sit down to a meal with several varieties of meats, three different vegetable dishes and salads, four starches, and a smorgasbord of deserts. But that’s what many families have done over this holiday season. Compared with a holiday feast, the cold lunch we take to work on a Monday morning seems like an insignificant morsel, hardly worth considering. Yet by Monday noon, that morsel seems pretty important and filling. And by Monday afternoon, having consumed that meager lunch, we’re able to focus on whatever is important in our work life instead of being distracted by a growling stomach.

At the end of a year, the work that has happened over the course of the year, the events we’ve experienced, the insights we’ve gained, and the goals we’ve achieved are as overwhelming in reflection as the lingering effects of a holiday feast at bedtime. Rather than struggle to document the fullness of 2013, I’d like to select three memories that characterize the year for me. And just as memories of a delicious ham or those homemade noodles promise some fantastic meal creations from leftovers, these three memories give me reason to anticipate some outstanding opportunities for Michigan State University Extension in the New Year.

So among all that happened in 2013, I’d like to highlight these three events:

What’s Now? What’s Next?  Dean Fred Poston decided early on in his second tenure as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), that it would be beneficial for the college and for our stakeholders to hold a series of town hall events around the state. As he opened each of the 13 sessions we held, he explained that having come through a tough time of budget reductions, restructuring and leadership changes, it was important for the college leaders to reconnect with people across the state who care about the role of the CANR in Michigan’s future. Dean Poston asked Senior Associate Dean and Director of MSU AgBioResearch Doug Buhler, CANR Associate Dean Kelly Millenbah, and me, as Director of MSU Extension to join him on a panel that would respond to questions and suggestions from people who attended these sessions.

There’s a great deal for us to learn from the What’s Now? What’s Next? (WNWN) sessions, and I’m sure Dean Poston will be communicating some of those insights in the new year. For me, the most striking message from these sessions was the simple fact that they happened.  In MSU Extension, we’re accustomed to the idea that university leaders should be engaged with the public and seek out public thoughts on our mission and how we carry out our mission.  And in the CANR, that’s a common understanding as well.  Yet at each event, participants consistently voiced their gratitude that we cared enough about what they thought to ask them to meet with us and to share their thoughts, frustrations, and appreciation for the work of MSU and the CANR.  When you hear people express gratitude for showing them respect, it’s clear to me that they haven’t always felt that respect from us. It also tells me that they acknowledge that this isn’t something that they expect to experience from other institutions of higher education in the state.

For the year 2014, the lesson of WNWN is that we must continue to engage with the people we serve, asking for their thoughts on needs and priorities, and sharing with them how we’ve succeeded and how we may have fallen short in our expectations. One way that we will show respect to the people we serve is by asking them to celebrate the Centennial of the Smith-Lever Act by sharing their stories with us, stories that tell of their lives, challenges and successes, and in their telling, shed some light on MSU Extension as well.

2. 21st Century Extension Professional. During Fall Extension Conference, we were fortunate to hear from Dr. Chuck Hibberd, Dean of Extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who described a study he led on what skills and attributes will be needed for effective Cooperative Extension Professionals in the 21st Century. I know some of the participants in the conference thought we had erred by asking Dr. Hibberd to address the full conference, reasoning that most people are NOT involved in selecting candidates for open positions. But the lessons of the study go well beyond decisions we make about whom to hire, and extend to include our current colleagues. It is as helpful to ask the question “how well do our skill sets match these needs today” as it is to ask how we can recruit new employees with those skills.

For me, the greatest insight from the 21st Century Extension Professional study was in reflecting on what makes an Extension professional unique.  When you take all of the skills and attributes that were identified as being of greatest importance in the study, I still think you can summarize them in two traits of Extension professionals that I admire and that motivate me every day:  First, effective Extension professionals are innately curious, motivated to learn more about anything they encounter, and especially those topics related to their area of expertise.  Their curiosity positions them well to remain up to date in their subject, and to incorporate new scientific findings as they develop.  Second, effective Extension professionals are compelled to teach. There is an inner desire among Extension professionals to explain things to people.  Put them in a group where someone asks a question, and an Extension professional will be quick to offer an explanation or to engage someone in the group who has insights into the question to get their explanation out for all to learn.

In looking ahead for 2014, one of our great opportunities will be to ask how we can better serve our staff and faculty with professional development opportunities that will stretch their skill sets, increase their effectiveness, and ultimately feed those twin motivations of curiosity and pedagogy that help each of us to succeed.

3. An honoring ceremony for retired Congressman Dale Kildee. Following the closing session of Fall Extension Conference in October, I drove to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, where I had been invited to attend a ceremony held by the United Tribes of Michigan (UTM). The previous night we had honored Frank Ettawageshik, Executive Director of UTM with the prestigious Friend of Extension award from the Michigan Alpha Psi Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi in recognition of Frank’s support for our Building Strong Sovereign Nations program, and his leadership on the board of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy.

At the honoring ceremony in Mt. Pleasant, Frank was the first of many tribal leaders from Michigan who spoke of the contributions of Congressman Kildee on behalf of the sovereign rights of tribal members. Congressman Kildee became known in the Michigan Legislature and in the U.S. Congress as an expert and advocate for the rights of American Indian tribes within Michigan and the United States. It was a moving event to hear so many tribal leaders speak of his importance to the advances made in governance and economic development in Michigan’s tribes over the past 37 years.

What struck me most that night was to hear each leader speak to the value of the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver (MITW), a right established by legislation then-Michigan House member Kildee framed in the 1970’s and then led its passage in 1976. The MITW is “a program enacted by Public Act 174 of 1976, which waives the tuition costs for eligible Native Americans in public community colleges or universities within Michigan.”  Based on the high percentage of leaders in the ceremony who had used this benefit to achieve their own higher education goals, and given the success of tribal governments in creating new economic opportunities in their communities over the past 37 years, it seems clear that this single act of legislation has contributed greatly to enhanced prosperity for tribal members in Michigan.

I witnessed further evidence of tribal growth and transformation in a conference held in East Lansing in March, titled “A conversation about Michigan Indian Education and Michigan State University.”  Several of our MSU Extension colleagues participated in this conference, including Emily Proctor, Barb Smutek, and Dionardo Pizaña. Many of the participants in this conference were from a younger generation than those involved in the honoring ceremony for Congressman Kildee. Yet the impact of educational opportunity on the development of leadership among tribal communities was powerfully evident in the conversations that ensued at the conference.

Our popular culture sends mixed messages about the traditions and future of the descendants of North America’s native peoples. It’s difficult to find the positive outlook and promising future in our media that these two events showcased for me.  If you ever need a strong dose of hope for humanity and our country’s future, connecting with leaders in Michigan’s tribal communities will give you all you need.

For 2014, we have some great opportunities to build on programming that Emily, Barb, Dionardo, and other MSU Extension colleagues have pioneered with Michigan’s tribal communities.  Whether it is the workshops these three led on doing the work of Extension in tribal communities (they promise more in 2014), or programming partnerships with tribal governments in health and nutrition, tribal governance, and community food systems, we have tremendous opportunities to contribute further to the growth and development of Michigan’s tribal communities. And as we build on these opportunities, we will also challenge ourselves to address needs in other ethnically- and racially-distinct communities that have not been served as well by public institutions in the past. That challenge builds on the themes that have emerged from the What’s Now? What’s Next? town hall meetings and gives us tremendous opportunities to grow into the skills we all need to be effective Extension professionals in the 21st Century.

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Leadership academy application deadline approaches

A great opportunity exists for you – but you must act by Sept. 30 to seize it. The Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) seeks applicants for the 2014 Emerging Leader Program and 2014-15 Leadership Advancement Program. This news release gives details on both programs.

The academy helps develop the next generation of leaders in the areas of communities and food systems, agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing and the environment.

Rita Klavinski, Michigan State University Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute, is a 2008 graduate of the Leadership Advancement Program. Rita believes her time with the academy was time well spent.

Rita said, “The program was a life-changing experience for me, both personally and professionally. The work that I am doing now in community food systems is a direct result from my issues team project. The academy provided a vast array of cutting-edge leadership content and experiences that I continuously use in my leadership roles. Personally, I became more aware of my ability to be an advocate for others and be a servant leader.”

The GLLA will accept applications now through Sept. 30 for both programs at www.glla.msu.edu. Partial scholarships are available from GLLA for both programs to help offset the cost for those with demonstrated need. Direct questions to Vicki Pontz at pontzv@msu.edu or at 517-432-8685.

To learn more, visit www.glla.msu.edu.

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Apply for the GLLA Emerging Leader Program by Nov . 15

I’d like to remind you about an important opportunity for enhancing and refining your leadership abilities. The Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) offers the Emerging Leader Program (ELP), designed for developing individual leadership skills.

The program meets twelve days between April and October 2013. It seeks a diverse group of outstanding candidates representing government, academia, nonprofits and industry to broaden perspectives about key sustainability issues and consider how leadership for the common good can influence Michigan’s future.

The GLLA brings together current and emerging leaders to influence Michigan’s future. It bases its programs on the belief that leadership is a skill needed across many interests and sectors. Leading effectively will aid you in your efforts to contribute toward the common good.

Apply online for the Emerging Leader Program by Nov. 15 at www.glla.msu.edu. Please direct any questions to Vicki Pontz at pontzv@msu.edu or 517-432-8685.

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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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Emerging Leader Program develops individual leadership skills

I’m happy to get another chance to invite leaders and potential leaders to consider getting involved in the Great Lakes Leadership Academy. Conducted by the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the academy has a mission to “promote positive change, economic vitality and resource conservation, and to enhance the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good.”

 The academy brings together current and emerging leaders to broaden perspectives about key sustainability issues and consider how leadership for the common good can influence Michigan’s future. I wrote more about the academy in an August 2010 blog entry.

 You could be one of those leaders. Designed for developing individual leadership skills, the Emerging Leader Program meets 12 days between April and October in 2012. The academy seeks a diverse group of outstanding candidates interested in vitalizing Michigan communities, agriculture, business or environmental sectors and in growing their public policy work.

If you are interested in learning more about the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, either for your own interest or for others with whom you interact who are good candidates, you can check it out online at www.glla.msu.edu where you can also apply for the Emerging Leader Program. The deadline for applications is Nov. 15, 2011. Your leadership journey will begin in April 2012.

 For more information, contact Vicki Pontz at pontzv@msu.edu or 517-432-8685.

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Dr. Guyer: A leader for the common good

The board of directors of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) has announced that they will be recognizing Dr. Gordon Guyer with the William Milliken Leadership for the Common Good Award. Dr. Guyer is well known to those of us in Michigan State University Extension. He served as director of MSUE from 1973 to 1985 and has provided leadership in many other ways: as department chairperson for the Department of Entomology, director of the MSU Pesticide Research Center, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the 18th President of MSU. Dr. Guyer has served on numerous boards of directors and remains a frequent source of advice and insight to leaders in agriculture, natural resources and higher education in Michigan and beyond. A lengthier and more detailed citation will be published later in association with the banquet at which Dr. Guyer will be recognized.

 Today I wanted to call this to your attention and encourage you to consider attending the banquet at which Dr. Guyer will be recognized on Friday, September 17. The event begins with a reception at 6:00 p.m., and dinner follows at 7:00 p.m. The event will be held at the Lansing Center. In addition to Dr. Guyer’s recognition, the banquet will feature a keynote speech by Richard Longworth, author of Caught in the Middle, America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism. Mr. Longworth’s book is a sobering analysis of the importance of global economic changes on the Midwest’s dependence on agriculture and manufacturing for economic prosperity and how we can respond to those changes.

 Tickets for the event are $125 (this is a fund-raiser for GLLA, so $100 is tax deductible) or $625 for a table of six ($425 tax deductible) and can be purchased online at www.GLLA.msu.edu/giving.html. This is a great way to support leadership development as part of MSUE’s work and to recognize an individual who has been critical to the development and success of MSUE. If you’re not able to attend the banquet but wish to send congratulations to Dr. Guyer, you can reach him at guyerg@msu.edu.

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