Members of the Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) received a final note from Dr. Rick Foster this week as he prepares to return to his faculty position and focus his leadership on Michigan State University’s program aimed at developing food, water and energy systems for 21st century metropolitan areas. The program, termed MetroFoodsPlus, was announced in a Detroit press conference yesterday, presented jointly by MSU President LouAnna K. Simon and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. We have been fortunate to benefit from Dr. Foster’s leadership over the past two years, during which he has served as the director of GMI. As one of our four institute directors, he helped to give definition to a concept that we created as part of our restructuring. He came to us with a tremendous background of leadership experience, having served in a variety of roles, ranging from high school agriscience teacher to vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Rick’s leadership has helped to create a sense of unity and joint purpose among educators working in programs that had been only distantly connected in our previous organizational structure. He embraced the notion that what holds these programs together – from community development to family financial management to community food systems to natural resources stewardship – is a focus on equipping Michigan’s families, communities and industries to adopt practices that ensure sustainability of not only our natural assets but also our communities and families as well.
I’ve personally benefited tremendously from Rick’s generosity with his time and insights, and I’ve had many in GMI share their appreciation for his positive outlook and affirming support for group-generated suggestions and programs. GMI has innovated in a number of ways and we’ve all benefited from their new ways of approaching everything from revenue generation to creating reality around the concept of food hubs.
We will miss Rick’s leadership as he turns his full attention to MetroFoodsPlus, but we’ll also continue to benefit from his deep understanding of MSU Extension and integrate our strengths into this bold effort to join Michigan’s agricultural heritage and industrial innovation history with the challenges and opportunities resting in Michigan’s urban centers. Rick will retain a faculty appointment in MSUE and will especially connect frequently with the community food systems work group within GMI. I’ll always deeply appreciate Rick’s willingness to help us create this new, 21st century version of MSU Extension. Thanks, Rick, and good luck in your MetroFoodsPlus efforts!
President Lou Anna Simon provided testimony to the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee yesterday and articulated a 21st century vision of what a land-grant university – THIS land-grant university – needs to do. Our mission is still rooted very much in our service to our state, helping to prepare our residents and our institutions for the challenges and opportunities we will face in the years ahead.
I hear President Simon quite frequently, and occasionally stakeholders will assert to me that they think Michigan State University has abandoned the land-grant mission. It’s always hard for me to hear those comments, and I respectfully disagree when people make that assertion. I’m grateful for her leadership, and now I have her testimony to refer to for those who disagree with me. I encourage you to read her testimony when you have an opportunity and to pass along what she said by sharing this link with others: http://president.msu.edu/documents/2012_House_Higher_Ed_testimony.pdf. You can find a summary and this link on President Simon’s home page as well.
So that was nice to hear. What blew me away was a brief video that the president insisted on showing to the committee members. It’s title is MSU: Impacts Across Michigan. Sounds pretty straightforward, I know. The shock for me was the lead story – it was a testimonial from Gordon Berkenpas, CEO of Greendorr Greenhouses, Inc. of Dorr, Michigan, who told of the importance of MSU research and Extension for his business’ success. This was the president’s show, and what she chose to feature was our work. Tom Dudek, senior Extension educator, is shown in the video, and Tom was contacted by the president’s office to arrange for a stakeholder who could tell the story of our impacts in a compelling way. Tom, you succeeded! View the video:
What added frosting to the cake was to see that the second impact story featured Dr. Carl Taylor, professor of sociology and a resource for our youth development programs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that MSUE would be tied to stories of impacts from MSU. It’s just nice to have the recognition, and I wanted each of you to know about this as well. Tom Dudek’s work with Greendorr Greenhouses and Dr. Taylor’s work with youth are representative of all that we do to help people improve their lives across Michigan. It’s a proud day to be a member of Team MSU.
On Tuesday this week, Deanna East, coordinator for District 9, and I were invited to attend an announcement in Flint that featured Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon; Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine; Neal Hegarty, vice president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; and Mike Brown, emergency financial manager of the city of Flint. Together, they announced a new initiative by the MSU College of Human Medicine that not only will double the number of medical students who complete the third and fourth years of their medical education in Flint area hospitals and clinics, but also will hire new faculty and assign them to the Flint “campus” for research and outreach services. MSU has pioneered a model of developing strong teams focused on particular health research needs with the development of a team of faculty who focus on Parkinson’s disease at the Grand Rapids campus. The plan is to repeat this in Flint, partnered with the area hospitals, and with a large investment from the C.S. Mott Foundation, perhaps narrowing down to two groups, each focused on a particular area. The area of health science research they plan to pursue is yet to be determined, because the college wants to engage the Flint community in helping to identify the needs that they feel need to be addressed.
This kind of investment is exciting for any community. For the Flint community, it’s even more valuable as the area continues to rebound from the severe hardships they have encountered following a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in the area. Over the past decade, the only job sector in the area experiencing growth was the health services arena. A research enterprise based in Flint will only help to further accelerate that kind of growth.
So why were Deanna and I invited to attend? We are fortunate to have a medical dean in Dean Rappley who understands the value of having professional educators and paraprofessionals embedded in the community to help translate research findings into practice – by consumers and by health professionals. And she realizes that MSU Extension is well equipped to serve as a key partner in that translation. Where this takes us is uncertain, but it really helps to reinforce the importance of our Health and Nutrition Institute in positioning us to help do what we do in Extension – translate research into practice. And with these kinds of investments at the university level, we are even better positioned to attract new investments in Extension to help us realize our mission in this area as well.
There’s a lot to be done yet, much to be determined, but MSUE is invited to be at the table as the College of Human Medicine works to understand how they can have an impact in Flint and greater Genesee County. And we are ready.
A report by the Lumina Foundation for Education shows that Michigan needs an annual 6 percent increase in the current percentage of adults with college degrees to reach Lumina’s “Big Goal” to increase higher education rates to 60 percent by the year 2025. To learn more about the current levels of education for Michigan adults ages 25 to 64 and see the percentage of Michigan adults (25 to 64) with a two- or four-year degree by county, visit http://www.luminafoundation.org/state_work/michigan/.
Knowing that education and skills to succeed in college and the workplace are essential, yet our Michigan youth population is not sufficiently prepared, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon challenged a committee of MSU pre-college program directors in fall 2010 to develop common pre-college metrics and begin reporting against those metrics. Judy Ratkos, senior program leader in the Children and Youth Institute, represents MSUE on the committee. Committee members identified goals that MSU pre-college programs should meet, including increasing program participants’ overall interest in college, instructing participants in how to access college in some age-appropriate manner, and better preparing them for college by giving them the information and building skills necessary for success.
All MSU pre-college programs submitted a 2010 annual report using a common format designed to convey information about their audiences, funding, overall impact and other information. Find the reports at http://spartanyouth.msu.edu/precollege/reports.aspx. Click on each MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development pre-college program (4-H Exploration Days, 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp, 4-H Capitol Experience and 4‑H Discovery Camp) to read the reports on those events.
Additional 4-H program alumni college attendance numbers show that 4-H seniors who graduated high school in 2009 and 2010 attend college at about the same level as those who attended 4-H pre-college programs. (See graph above.) The proportion of 4-H seniors and pre-college attendees who attend college in the first or second year after graduation from high school was 20 to 35 percent greater than the average for all Michigan high school graduates. Future research will track the number of these students that also finish college. It’s interesting – and I’m not sure what the reason is – that a lower percentage of 2010 seniors enrolled than 2009 seniors for three of the four 4-H groups. Perhaps the 2010 class will show a higher percentage in 2011-2012, suggesting that some seniors take a year off before starting their college studies.
This coming Tuesday, May 31, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold the committee’s first Farm Bill field hearing here at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The hearing, “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” will focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow chairs the committee. Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon, MSU president; Dr. J. Ian Gray, MSU vice president for research and graduate studies; and I will lead the opening panel discussion. Witnesses for the second and third panels will consist of various leaders in the agriculture industry.
Sen. Stabenow is an alumna not only of MSU, but also of MSU Extension. She participated in 4‑H in Clare County as a youth, served as an intern for MSUE in Lansing as a student at MSU, and for many years supported MSUE in Ingham County as a county commissioner. Senator Stabenow was appointed to chair the agriculture committee earlier this year and has the opportunity to lead the committee through the very important reauthorization process for all laws associated with food and agriculture policy in the Farm Bill. This includes authorization for funding of research, extension and education such as the Smith-Lever funding that supports Cooperative Extension in Michigan and every other state.
The public may participate in the hearing by submitting written testimony, which will be included in the official record of the hearing. Three copies of your testimony can be submitted at the hearing or can be sent to the committee no later than June 7, 2011. Send your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org or to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.
For up-to-date information on the hearing and Farm Bill process, you can visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website at ag.senate.gov.