Tag Archives: janet olsen

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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Congratulations to Step III awardees

Every year, senior staff members work with the administration to review the applicants for Step III. It is a rigorous process for the applicants, involving a portfolio review and a seminar presentation, which is assessed by the applicant’s peers and institute director, but a great opportunity for recognition within Michigan State University Extension. The four staff members who have been awarded the status this year are Rebecca Finneran, Brenda Long, Janet Olsen and Holly Tiret.

Step III is awarded to Extension academic staff members who have demonstrated excellence and scholarly achievement in their work as Extension professionals over an extended period. Those who are awarded Step III achieve “senior” status, similarly to a professor rank among faculty. Their titles will now reflect their Step III status by adding “senior” before them.

Please join me in congratulating them on their hard work and dedication to Extension!

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Presenting our curricula on a national level

Several Michigan State University Extension staff members shared their knowledge and expertise with the national 4-H community at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) Conference held October 26‒30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was a great opportunity for MSU Extension to expand our reach to a nationwide audience of our peers.

Deb Barrett, Frank Cox and Janice Zerbe presented on the Career Exploration and Workforce Preparation work group’s National 4-H curriculum “Build Your Future: Choices… Connections… Careers.” Health and nutrition experts Janet Olsen and Karen Pace presented “Be SAFE” – to help addressing bullying in 4-H and other out-of-school settings. Judy Ratkos and Jennifer Weichel joined a panel conversation on using data to creatively make the case for 4-H, and Kendra Moyses, Betty Jo Nash and Jodi Schulz presented “Back to the Basics” – life skills curriculum packages to help 4-H leaders increase their impact. Three staff members, Christine Heverly, Glenda Kilpatrick and Janice Zerbe, were also recognized at the event for their service to Michigan 4-H.

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Follow these tips to promote your ‘baby’: Part 3

The last two Spotlights offered real-life examples of how some of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues have successfully marketed their curriculum resulting in at least moderate increases in sales of the product in the MSU Extension Bookstore. Today, I’d like to offer my final example.

Extension program leaders Janet Olsen and Karen Pace wrote Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments (HNI101). The curriculum is designed to help young people aged 11 to 14 and adults work in partnership to create environments that are physically and emotionally safe.

The curriculum has sold well in the MSU Extension Bookstore with 70 percent of sales coming from outside Michigan.

Janet said, “Karen and I have been quite intentional about our marketing efforts, and we think that there are multiple aspects of our overall program development and marketing that have contributed to good sales.”BeSafe-Cover-BookstoreThumb

For starters, the two did not just develop the curriculum because the subject interested them. They created it when seeing a need for research-based bullying prevention education within out-of-school time settings. As they created the curriculum, they paid particular attention to research from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), which stressed that effective after-school programs that promote social and emotional learning are sequenced, active, focused and explicit (which also spells SAFE). Making connections between the Be SAFE curriculum design and the findings from CASEL has been an important aspect of marketing the value of the material.

Early in the process, they focused on cross-institute partnerships and capacity-building. Although the Be SAFE initiative was developed within the Health and Nutrition Institute Social and Emotional Work Team, they began building connections with staff in the Children and Youth Institute. As soon as the curriculum came off the presses in January 2013, they offered workshops to build the capacity of staff to address issues of bullying within their communities and to use and market the curriculum as a tool for addressing these issues. They also developed flyers designed to make local marketing easy to carry out. They currently offer mini-grants staff can use to help program sites put the curriculum to work.

They’ve promoted Be SAFE at a wide variety of youth- and health-related conferences across Michigan and the country. Some of these have been Extension-related (such as the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism and the Priester National Extension Health Conference), and many have been through external groups and organizations (such as Girl Scouts, the Michigan AfterSchool Association and the Childhood Trauma Practitioner’s Assembly). They always provide participants with copies of the curriculum flyer, as well as flyers for additional Be SAFE educational workshops. They always make sure they tell people to download a free PDF of the introduction to the Be SAFE curriculum from the MSU Extension Bookstore site. They also stress that the curriculum is available in multiple formats (print, flash drive and CD-ROM).

They’ve offered webinars about bullying topics “bookended” by information about Be SAFE. They’ve marketed these webinars through the local and statewide networks of MSU Extension staff members, as well as through the eXtension website and national Extension youth- and health-related Listservs. The recordings of the webinars are available for purchase through the MSU Extension Bookstore.

They use MSU Extension news articles as a marketing tool. As they write news articles about bullying and related issues, they often include a final paragraph that connects with the Be SAFE initiative and that highlights the curriculum. For example, a recent article about cyberbullying included three pertinent links: the Be SAFE program web page, the Be SAFE curriculum page in the MSU Extension Bookstore and the Events registration site for a recent webinar about cyberbullying.

They offer continuing education units for their workshops, which helps them reach broader audiences. They have worked with the Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative to have the Be SAFE-related workshops approved for continuing education hours. This has allowed them to have their approved workshops listed on the collaborative’s website, which is accessed by large numbers of social workers who need ongoing education hours for their licensing requirements.

Karen and Janet worked to get Be SAFE included in a nationally sold publication produced by the National 4-H Council titled A Guide to Bullying Prevention Programs. It talks about Be SAFE as an important resource to address issues of bullying.

As you can see from all three examples I’ve talked about, trying a variety of marketing methods can lead to successful sales of your product. Find some that work for you.

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Extension program leaders create resource to address bullying in out-of-school settings

It’s evident when you listen to news reports, scan social media or just talk to folks – issues related to bullying, bias and harassment concern parents, educators, family workers and others who work with and care about young people. And, of course, these issues concern young people as well.

Schools have resources to address these issues, but few address bullying issues in out-of-school settings. As always in Michigan State University Extension, our staff members see a need and work to meet it. That’s why MSU Extension Health and Nutrition program leaders for social and emotional health Janet Olsen and Karen Pace created Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments.


The two targeted the curriculum for use in out-of-school settings such as 4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, scouts and after-school programs. Be SAFE helps young people aged 11 to 14 partner with adults to create physically and emotionally safe environments.

The overall goals of Be SAFE include promoting social and emotional learning and development, addressing and reducing bullying, preventing bullying behaviors by tapping the wisdom and assets of youth and adults, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

Research shows that young people benefit from time spent in positive and safe settings with adults and peers. Adults can use Be SAFE as an important tool to help young people to create those safe, affirming and fair environments. The resource helps adults to help young people be resilient when facing challenging situations such as bullying, bias and harassment.

As true of all MSU Extension curricula, this publication draws from extensive research, and Karen and Janet also drew from evidence-based bullying prevention programs. A number of their MSU Extension colleagues also contributed to the development of Be SAFE by serving as reviewers and as liaisons to the nine sites across the state that piloted the material. These included staff members from the Health and Nutrition Institute (Tracie Abram, Denise Aungst, Carolyn Penniman, Suzanne Pish, Erin Ross, Olga Santiago and Holly Tiret), the Children and Youth Institute (Kendra Moyses and Jodi Schulz), and the Organizational Development Team (Dionardo Pizaña). Former Children and Youth Institute staff members Andrea Caron, Sandra Griffin and Julie Scislowicz were also involved with these efforts.

Janet and Karen are currently working to assist MSU Extension staff members in providing education around issues of bullying, bias and harassment. It’s not too late to register for a June 4 train-the-trainer opportunity in Gaylord. You’ll receive a copy of Be SAFE and learn how to incorporate the curriculum into your program. You’ll also explore current research on bullying and learn key strategies to address bullying issues. Click on this link to learn more and to register.

Download a free PDF of the Introduction section of Be SAFE or order a copy of the 224-page guide, designed and edited by ANR Communications, at the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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MSU Extension staff offers bullying prevention workshops

Educators – along with the wide variety of adults who live with and care about young people – now recognize bullying as a serious health issue. Gov. Snyder’s signing of Public Act 241 of 2011, an anti-bullying bill, shows that Michigan takes bullying seriously. This act, known as “Matt’s Safe School Law,” requires that all school district boards adopt and implement a policy no later than six months after the passage of this legislation. This law takes a significant step toward addressing bullying and violence within school settings; yet, for the law to be effective, adults who work with children and youth need to learn more about these issues and ways they can work with young people to foster healthy relationships and positive settings both within schools and in other kinds of youth settings.

 And that’s where our Michigan State University Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute Social-Emotional Health and Well-Being Work Team comes in. A new initiative, Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments, developed under the leadership of MSU Extension program leaders Janet Olsen and Karen Pace, will address issues of bullying, bias and harassment through a lens of differences. To get caring adults started with some concrete strategies to confront these complex issues head on, the team will offer the ABCs of Bullying Prevention: Addressing Bullying in Community Settings. This half-day workshop partnering our Health and Nutrition Institute with our Children and Youth Institute will take place in five locations on five different dates in March and April.

 Find out the times and dates of the workshops here.

 Read more about addressing bullying and the Be Safe initiative here.

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MSU Extension staff receive diversity award at awards convocation

The Michigan State University 2012 Excellence in Diversity Awards were presented at the All-University Excellence in Diversity 2012 Recognition and Awards Convocation and Reception Feb. 17 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. One college, five individuals and three groups who have exemplified diversity and inclusion in extraordinary ways received awards.

 MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Provost Kim Wilcox presented MSU Extension staff members Janet Olsen, Karen Pace and Dionardo Pizaña with the Sustained Effort toward Excellence in Diversity award.

 This Dec. 15 Spotlight article describes the terrific work that the team is involved in, developing and delivering programs and curricula to help reduce the incidence of bullying among youth and providing training in multicultural diversity.

 It’s always great to have MSU recognize the achievements of our colleagues, especially with an honor that recognizes persistence and quality. Even better, parents and family members able to attend and witness the event. Thanks to Karen, Dionardo and Janet for their leadership in helping us all to be more effective in our work. Read more and see photos here.

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