Tag Archives: lela vandenberg

Handy tools assist callers with questions

It’s our job at Michigan State University Extension to educate the public. Part of that education involves answering questions on the fly. We might be the person answering the phone when that question comes through but we’re not the expert on the subject. What’s the best way to help people get expert answers to their questions?

 First, connect them to the person that does know the answer. How best to do that? You can search the MSU Extension “Ask an Expert” athttp://msue.anr.msu.edu/experts/search. This helpful tool will help you locate an Extension expert in their county. Give them the contact information for the expert and also tell them about Ask an Expert so they can use it themselves.

 To aid our colleagues who often have the opportunity to answer the phones and emails that come in from Michigan residents, there’s a helpful tool to send to people who have made inquiries. You can easily email this list of resources to clients when they call.

 MSU Extension executive staff assistant Terri Badgley helped put together the document and has seen firsthand how helpful it can be. She’s sent the document as an email attachment to callers after doing the expert search and providing the caller with the expert’s contact information.

 Terri said, “I’ll provide the caller with the phone or email information they’re asking for, but then I also mention, ‘We have some awesome online resources you’ll also want to have. What’s your email address so I can send those to you?’ Nine times out of ten, the caller is delighted to provide their email.

 “We think constituents will appreciate having these resources for future use and may cut down on phone calls … with that said, we are very purposeful in including our individual contact information for that ‘personal’ touch and possibly follow up. We also like the idea of the consistency across the state in how we each respond to callers,” she said.

 I encourage you to take Terri’s advice and make use of the document. Have it handy to send to that next caller. You can find it in SharePoint under MSUE ALL STAFF. It’s called “MSUE Resources to Callers.”

 It’s not just a resource that support and clerical staff can use. Educators, specialists and others might have occasion to use it as well.

 Senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg and Extension human resources coordinator Gina Flores are offering online sessions on this very topic – helping clients with questions. Sign up by June 17 for the June 26 session here: http://events.anr.msu.edu/event.cfm?folder=HowToHelpMayJune14

 Here’s also another helpful tool that Lela brought to my attention. It’s called “Finding Answers in MSUE and eXtension: A Guide for Support Staff.” It offers eXtension tools and gives links to helpful research-based websites recommended by institute directors and program leaders. Find it on the Organization Development website at http://od.msue.msu.edu/uploads/files/PD/Finding_Info_in_eXt-_Staff_2013.docx

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Two MSUE all-stars honored at eXtension conference

A number of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues have been attending the fourth National eXtension Conference this week in Sacramento, California. Yesterday, two of our colleagues received honors for their contributions to the national effort to foster collaboration in the development of online resources to better serve our clients.

Michigan State University Extension director Tom Coon accepts the eXtension Champion Award on behalf of MSU senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg

Michigan State University Extension director Tom Coon accepts the eXtension Champion Award on behalf of MSU senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg at the National eXtension Conference March 26, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Lela Vandenberg was not able to attend the conference. Photo credit: C. Penniman.

Lela Vandenberg, senior leadership and professional development specialist, received the Champion award for her many contributions to the development and application of eXtension, the national web resource for Cooperative Extension. Lela has led the MSU Extension Institutional Team since 2012, and has been a key leader and facilitator for MSU Extension colleagues in understanding not only how eXtension can be a resource to assist them, but also how we can adapt and use technology to reach more people more effectively. Lela has been a leader at the national level as well, and is frequently invited to speak to and facilitate Extension colleagues at other institutions in the use of new technologies for Extension collaboration, learning and teaching. We’ve known of Lela’s many contributions because we’ve been the greatest beneficiaries of her insights and good will. What was especially exciting about the Champion award, the highest award given by eXtension, is that colleagues from across the nation recognize and appreciate her contributions and leadership. It’s an honor to have Lela as a colleague and a treat to be able to celebrate her achievements. Lela was not able to attend the conference this year, so I had the honor of receiving her award on her behalf, and it’s currently tucked in my suitcase, headed for Michigan. MSU Extension educator Carolyn Penniman was kind enough to take a photo of Lela’s award.

Karen Waite, senior academic specialist in the Department of Animal Science and the Children and Youth Institute, received the Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award. Karen was not able to attend the conference, so Betsy Greene, equine specialist at the University of Vermont and a collaborator with Karen on the HorseQuest eXtension Community of Practice, accepted her award on her behalf. Karen has made many contributions to the HorseQuest Community of Practice and has been a key leader in developing content relevant to the needs of youth and particularly youth leaders in equine programs. Together with animal science associate professor Christine Skelly, Karen has helped to create and expand the My Horse University online certificate program, which has benefited greatly from the collaboration of HorseQuest members.

Betsy Greene, University of Vermont Extension specialist and associate professor, accepted the "Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award" on behalf of  Michigan State University Extension specialist Karen Waite at the National eXtension Conference

Betsy Greene, University of Vermont Extension specialist and associate professor, accepted the “Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award” on behalf of Michigan State University Extension specialist Karen Waite at the National eXtension Conference March 26, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Karen Waite was not able to attend the conference.

Congratulations to both Lela and Karen for their recognition. And many thanks to both for being great leaders and innovators for MSU Extension! By the way, it was not at all surprising that the University of Delaware eXtension Institution Team received the Outstanding I-Team award at the ceremony yesterday. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension (and former associate director of MSU Extension), made a point of building a strong I-team when she began her role at Delaware two years ago. No one at MSU Extension should be surprised that her team has skyrocketed in their contributions to and use of eXtension. Congratulations, Michelle!

All the awards will be posted to about.extension.org/blog within the next few days. They’ll also be announced in the April eXtension UPDATE next week.

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Deadline for SERV proposals extended

The SERV (Sharing Extension Resources Virtually) program is intended to extend the professional development opportunities that traditionally have been concentrated at Fall Extension Conference to other times of the year, making use of online technology. The SERV Team has extended the deadline to submit proposals for the first round of online workshops. You’ll now have till Jan. 25 to come up with creative session ideas for the March 18 event. See my previous Spotlight article for details on the three types of sessions you can choose from to present.

If you have questions, visit the SERV website or contact any member of the SERV team: Doug Brahee, Megghan Honke, Cheryl Peters, Luke Reese, Matt Shane or Lela Vandenberg.

 Submit your request for proposals on the SERV website.

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MSUE Consumer Hort Team wins eXtension award

With reduced budgets and staff and increased programmatic responsibilities, Michigan State University Extension staff must maximize limited time and resources to meet growing demands. With those challenges in mind, the MSUE Consumer Horticulture Team faced the daunting task of delivering science-based, environmentally sound information to more than 8 million gardeners. With a firm grasp of the importance of technology and a collaborative spirit, they not only met their responsibilities but also won an award for their efforts.

The consumer hort team along with Bindu Bhakta will receive the eXtension Working Differently in Extension Award Oct. 2 at the National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City. The team consists of Bob Bricault, Rebecca Finneran, Gary Heilig, Hal Hudson, Gretchen Voyle, Linda Whitlock and Mary Wilson.

Senior Extension specialist Lela Vandenberg nominated the team for the award, which recognizes the team’s engagement with clientele, co-workers and others in new and different ways and the demonstrable impacts made. It provides an opportunity to show how the team works online and within a learning network.

In 2010, the team launched the “Gardening in Michigan”website as a platform to offer a variety of online classes and resources. The website now serves thousands of people. In early 2011, the team decided to add an Ask an Expert (AaE) widget to the website’s front page. But before they put up the widget, they would need experts to answer the questions. The team worked with the MSUE eXtension Institutional Team to develop an AaE training process suited for advanced Master Gardeners. Fifteen Master Gardener volunteers were recruited and trained online in Adobe Connect, allowing the launch of the AaE widget in June 2011. Through the widget, the team answered more than 700 questions in 13 months.

But the team did not stop with the widget. Thinking a statewide hotline to answer gardeners’ questions a good idea, they used technology to link existing county hotlines together under one toll free number to provide the service 24/7 to all counties. Having the hotline required more training for more volunteers. The training established uniformity and quality control. Within one year, calls increased by one thousand, and the hotline has served clients from 80 percent of Michigan’s 84 counties. I wrote about the hotline in a previous Spotlight.

You’ve also heard me talk about the new soil test self-mailers in a previous Spotlight. The team created the kits provided with a postage-paid return mailer consumers can purchase online from the MSU Extension Bookstore. The consumer mails the soil sample in to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab. Once the folks at the lab analyze the sample, the consumer receives an email with results and access to an interactive website, which provides customized fertilizer calculations, instructions on correct application and links to AaE and additional resources on the Gardening in Michigan website.

Additionally, the team redesigned the Master Gardener program to reduce volunteer management time and create a statewide, easy-to-replicate program integrating a hybrid in-person and electronic delivery method. These efforts will lead to greater focus upon the educational products, which translate to more trained Master Gardeners and increased involvement of those volunteers in local community development projects.

 When asked about the team, Lela said, “MSUE’s Consumer Horticulture Team is an inspiration to all of the MSUE work teams and a model for working smarter with reduced resources. They have risen to the challenge when faced with cuts in budget and personnel, and creatively implemented transformational change in the way we satisfy the educational and informational needs of Michigan gardeners. The team deserves this award!” I couldn’t agree more. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their leadership in helping to transform MSU Extension.

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MSU Extension staff member receives CANR Staffer of the Month award

Congratulations to Anne Brooks, Michigan State University Extension office assistant. Anne is the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Staff Advisory Committee August 2012 Staffer of the Month.

The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within their unit or college.

Dr. Lela Vandenberg nominated Anne for – among many other things – her positive, helpful attitude; creative, efficient and timely completion of tasks; and tremendous amount of professionalism. Anne lends support to seven MSU Extension specialists in Agriculture Hall.

Thanks to Anne for doing outstanding work and to Lela for nominating Anne for this recognition.

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Mind your (conference call) manners

Talking about email manners in a recent Spotlight brought to mind the importance of following professional etiquette in conference calls. Have you ever been bothered by distracting background noise and side conversations, a few people dominating the discussions or an unclear purpose? A short paper by Lela Vandenberg and Kathryn Foerster lists a set of possible guidelines to make conference calls go more smoothly. But this paper goes beyond etiquette with lots of ideas for making virtual meetings as interactive, participatory and productive as possible organized around four key tasks: creating structure, building a sense of community, maximizing interaction and minimizing groupthink. You can find this paper on the Michigan State University Extension Professional Development website along with other resources. Click on the paper’s title, “Guidelines for Teleconferences,” to download this Microsoft Word file. Feel free to pass this along to your volunteers and advisory committees as well.

 In addition, Lisa Bottomley, MSU Extension specialist, and Molly Frendo, MSU Extension associate program leader, will conduct an hourlong professional development webinar Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., “Facilitating Effective Conference Calls.” This webinar will cover a variety of topics including creating an agenda for conference calls, keeping participants engaged, maintaining productivity and increasing interactivity. It’s designed from a youth development perspective; however, anyone interested in effective conference calls may attend. Visit the MSU Extension Professional Development Registration System. Scroll down to session 7459, and click on the title. Register by Feb. 6.

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MSU Extension OD team members considered on cutting edge

Michigan State University Extension was well-represented at the inaugural conference of the National Association of Extension Program & Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) Dec. 6–8 in Atlanta. All seven of the MSU Extension staff members who attended the conference offered presentations: Cheryl Peters, Alan Pilkenton, Dionardo Pizaña, Michelle Rodgers, Beth Stuever, Lela Vandenberg and Bonnie Zoia.

 The theme of the conference was change.

 Dionardo conducted a 2 1/2-hour capstone session, “Navigating Your Emotions Through Change” that generated deep reflection, discussion and a lot of applause, as well as rave reviews from those who attended.

 Other sessions included:

  • Clicking to Successful Engagement with MSU Extension News (Stuever)
  • Facilitative Leadership Development (Zoia and Vandenberg)
  • Virtual vs. In-person Professional Development: Comparing Outcomes From Two Annual Extension Conferences (Peters, Rodgers and Vandenberg)
  • Tools and Training for Collaborating & Educating Online: eXtension, SharePoint, Adobe Connect (Pilkenton and Vandenberg)
  • Doing a Tough Thing Well…Re-building Trust at MSUE (Rodgers)
  • Utilizing an Assessment of Evaluation Competencies to Support Extension Professionals (Peters, Rodgers and Bruce Haas [research and development])

 “Hearing the stories of other states’ efforts to restructure and deal with shrinking budgets helped us realize that we’re not alone and that similar processes have been going on in Extension systems throughout the country,” said Lela.

 MSU Extension associate director Michelle Rodgers remarked that it’s been one of her goals to have the great work that MSUE is doing to be recognized by our peers. She recalled that she was delighted to have a couple of participants come up to her and share the sentiment: “Thanks for Michigan sharing these sessions…clearly Extension in Michigan is on the cutting edge.”

 Dr. Rodgers said, “This was a great time for members of the organizational development team to participate in scholarly activities around their area of specialization. Presentations were grounded in research and evaluation and modeled the scholarly work that we believe can occur across every part of our organization. MSUE has benefitted greatly from the synergy of efforts created through the teamwork of those in organizational development (OD). I was personally very proud of our MSUE OD team members.”

 Visit the association’s Facebook page to view photos and comments.

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