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About me

About half of the staff know me from my past history with Michigan State University Extension and half do not. For those who do not, I’d like to introduce myself. And maybe some of you who already know me will learn something new.

Both agriculture and MSU Extension are a huge part of my life. I was born on a Michigan Centennial Farm in Tuscola County. A farm is honored with the title of Centennial Farm if it’s continuously owned by one family for at least 100 years, consists of at least 10 acres and is actively producing farm products. Our farm originated in 1882 when my great-grandfather came to the Thumb from Canada. The farm is still in the family. In fact, two generations still live on the farm today. The fields are rented out but the family is still active in making maple syrup. Just as when I was a young person with 4-H projects, my nieces and nephews are active in 4-H, raising animals on this farm. Extension was with me at the beginning, influencing and educating me through 4-H.

I received a bachelor’s in home economics from Central Michigan University in 1974, and I taught home economics for two years. All the while, I had my eye on a career in Extension. My brothers, who both attended MSU, told me I would never get an Extension job unless I graduated from MSU. I proved them wrong when I obtained a half-time position with Extension in 1976. Two years later, the half-time position became full-time in Osceola and Wexford counties. Four years later, I became Osceola county Extension director. At the time, not too many women were county Extension directors. In 1988, I earned a master’s in adult and continuing education at MSU.

We in Extension as in all organizations are no stranger to change. In 1989, Extension was experiencing change, and I became regional supervisor, working out of my house, working under a string of interim directors. In 1993, because of more changes, I needed to reapply for the position of regional director and my office was moved to Grand Rapids.

In 2001, Dean Bill Taylor and President Peter McPherson asked me to be interim Extension director for 6 months. The interim title was dropped and I stayed on as director of Extension till 2005. I went back to Grand Rapids and completed my career as an Extension specialist and consultant. My formal retirement took place in 2008. However, as you know, I’m back again as your interim director.

I’m an active Master Gardener. My husband, Dick, is as well, and loves to staff the statewide MSU Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline. He takes this role very seriously and even I need to wait if he’s busy on the hotline.

My 4-H experience did not end when I grew up. Today, the whole family and I share an interest and love of 4-H. Dick is a 4-H rabbit club leader. My son, Dan, was active in 4-H and the International Farm Youth Exchange, which gave him the opportunity to spend time in Germany.

In August 2009, Dick and I along with Jerry and Merry Malfroid launched the Kent County 4-H Endowment Campaign “Growing 4-H Forever.” In spring 2011, Dick and I hosted an event at our home, which built the fund to the minimum Michigan 4-H Foundation‒required endowment investment of $10,000. Unfortunately, both Jerry and Merry were lost to cancer, but the fund grew as people remembered both of them in memorial gifts. In four short years, these gifts plus a generous contribution from Merry’s estate, along with other annual gifts, have built the endowment to more than $60,000. The Michigan 4-H Foundation will now match $50,000 of that total to create an endowment fund that – after the foundation’s contribution – will have a gift total of $110,000. The endowment fund is a perpetual, permanent asset of the Michigan 4-H Foundation for long-term support of Kent County 4-H. See this Michigan 4-H Foundation Vantage article (on page 2) for details: http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/vantage/2011/2011fallvantage.pdf as well as this follow-up article: http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/vantage/2013/2013fallvantage.pdf (also on page 2).

One of the things I liked best in my role as an Extension educator was the variety of things I was able to work on. I enjoyed working with families living in low-income situations, helping them to develop their potential and find their best talents to solve their own problems. One of the ways we accomplished this was through a program called Mothers of Messy Siblings in which we worked with mothers of young children. These women were often trapped by their situations or even abused. They often were creative and talented, and we helped them find their voices, express their leadership and develop life skills. Some of the best work of my life!

As a county Extension director, I was able to work on programs that involved the community as a whole. For example, one of the programs I was involved in was a community development project in which Extension initiated the collaboration of a variety of local groups to create a mile-long linear park along the Hersey River. This later spun off to several regional trail-head developments.

As regional director, I was involved in regional land-use redevelopment projects from both the rural and the urban perspective. We worked holistically before it was cool!

Extension enabled me to learn and grow and do ‒ all at the same time. I can’t think of a better career fit for me. Extension is an open door to continuous professional development.

As director, I still get charged up about Extension initiatives, the creative opportunities to reach people. I’ll always think of myself as an educator no matter what title I hold. I hope that’s true of everyone in Extension.

As you can tell from my story, my whole family and I not only bleed green but we also bleed Extension. That’s the reason I came back and I’m honored to be back in my role once again.

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Reminder to vote for Dr. Dudderar

In last week’s Spotlight, I told you about Dr. Glenn Dudderar, former Michigan State University Extension wildlife specialist. Glenn is one of ten finalists in the Stormy Kromer Living Legend contest. Stormy Kromer will make a donation to the winner’s chosen charity. Glenn chose the Michigan 4-H Foundation for the 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp. Dec. 16 is the last day you can put in a daily vote.

Vote here: http://www.stormykromer.com/living-legend

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Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens curator receives honorary FFA degree

Dr. Norm Lownds received an Honorary American FFA Degree – Other at the 85th National FFA Convention and Expo that took place Oct. 24–27 in Indianapolis, Ind.

Formerly Future Farmers of America, the FFA works to enhance the lives of young people by developing their potential forleadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The Honorary FFA degree recognizes those who have gone beyond daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students.

Dr. Lownds is an associate professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture and is curator of the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens, a remarkable resource supported by gifts to the Michigan 4-H Foundation.

Congratulations to Dr. Lownds!

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Professional environmental and outdoor education association recognizes MSUE contributors

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) honored several Michigan State University Extension colleagues from our Greening Michigan Institute’s Natural Resources Literacy and Leadership (NRLL) signature program at the statewide professional educators’ association annual conference Oct. 13 at Michigan 4-H Foundation’s Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.

Steve Stewart, MSUE senior Sea Grant educator from southeast Michigan, received the 2012 William B. Stapp Award, which recognizes statewide, career-long commitment to environmental education. Nominators noted Steve’s national and international leadership in Great Lakes education and his commitment to developing science-based systems of teacher and volunteer professional development. Steve felt honored by the award particularly as he was able to meet and learn from William Stapp early in his career.

Andrea Grix received the 2012 Julian Smith Outdoor Education Award, named for the MSU faculty member known as the father of the international field of outdoor education. The award goes to one individual who has made outstanding contributions to outdoor education in Michigan and who exemplifies the best in the field of outdoor education. The individual must demonstrate a lifetime of devoted service with at least 10 years of that service in Michigan. Andrea serves as program manager for the Michigan 4-H Foundation at the Kettunen Center and provides leadership for state youth and adult conservation education. She serves as the Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council program coordinator and as a resource person for state-level Michigan 4-H Environmental & Outdoor Education programs. She assists with 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp, and she has served on the MAEOE Board.

Bindu Bhakta, MSUE Oakland County educator, received the Recognition Award, for an individual who has made significant contributions to the fields of environmental and outdoor education. Oakland County Parks (OCP), a significant programming partner of MSUE, nominated Bindu for this award. OCP noted Bindu’s leadership impacts through the Michigan Conservation Stewards program, the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership program and other watershed-based educational partnerships.

David Holt, an MSUE conservation steward, received the 2012 Volunteer Service Award. David volunteers tirelessly with Oakland County Parks. Using his MSUE volunteer development background, and building on more than 15 years of volunteer experience of his own, he spent more than 30 hours monitoring grassland birds at Highland Oaks Park during 2011 and 2012. His field work has improved park natural resources management of these birds.

Two teachers from the MSUE-sponsored Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative received Appreciation Awards. Rebecca Heckman of Inland Lakes Schools and Brian Matchett of Alcona Community Schools bring real-world stewardship learning to students through partnerships with conservation organizations, resource agencies and businesses. Brian is a 4-H alumnus of the Michigan 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp for teen leadership, and he has served as a staff member.

Congratulations to this group for their professional impacts throughout the state, within the Great Lakes region and with international circles for their work in Natural Resources Literacy and Leadership!

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4-H gardens event doubles attendance

It’s only the second time “4-H Evening in the Garden” has taken place but this year, attendance doubled at the free Michigan State University 4-H Children’s Gardens event Aug. 14. MSU Extension 4-H staff members, 4-H volunteer leaders and 4-H members interacted with the more than 220 people attending.

Attendees got involved hands-on with learning activities aimed at young people aged 9 to 19. They learned what 4-H has to offer through meeting and talking with current 4-H’ers, viewing demonstrations and learning about various 4-H project areas.

Participants got an opportunity to explore the 4-H Children’s Gardens and even sample MSU Dairy Store ice cream.

Michigan 4-H Foundation provided funding for the event.

Small theme gardens and theme areas such as the ABC KinderGarden, the Teddy Bear and Animals Garden, and the Storybook Garden make up the 4-H Children’s Gardens. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the many gardens including the Edible Flowers Garden, the Five Senses Garden and the PB&J Garden. Visitors can take time to touch and smell the flowers and just enjoy being outdoors. There’s also plenty to discover in the indoor gardens as well. It’s a great place to take the children or grandchildren, or just enjoy the gardens alone for a peaceful break.

The gardens are located on campus just south of the Plant and Soil Sciences Building, which is on the corner of Wilson and Bogue. Visit the gardens’ website at http://4hgarden.cowplex.com/Information/Plan_Your_Visit/ for hours of operation and parking information.

Read more about the 4-H Evening in the Garden event here.

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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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MSU Extension educators receive MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Award

Michelle Neff, Michigan State University Extension Clare County educator, and Karen Fifield, MSU Extension Montmorency County educator, both received the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) Distinguished Service Award at the 4-H Spring Conference held May 9–12 at Kettunen Center in Tustin.

 The Distinguished Service Award is the highest state honor that 4-H staff can obtain through the MAE4-HYS. The award is given to current MAE4-HYS members who have at least 6 years of employment in Extension 4-H Youth Development, including some statewide involvement in coordinating events, programming or both, and who have proven evidence of positive change resulting from their work.

 MAE4-HYS recognized Michelle Neff for her management of the 4-H Club Read Program and her implementation of the CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum. The association also recognized her service as a Farm Bureau board member, her work with 4-H volunteers on the establishment of a permanent Clare County 4-H Youth Program Endowment fund with the Michigan 4-H Foundation, and her involvement in the formation of the Teen Livestock Committee.

 MAE4-HYS also recognized Michelle’s involvement in statewide efforts with the Citizenship, Leadership and Service (CLS) Team’s Teen Leader Project. Currently, her role includes serving as the co-facilitator for the Statewide Academic Success Work Group under the Life Skills Work Team.

 Formerly an Extension program associate, Karen Fifield became an Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute on June 1. Since 1998, Karen has served MSU Extension Montmorency County. MAE4-HYS recognized Karen for her work with 4-H including the Sunrise Side 4-H Camp, Achievement Days, 4-H Days at the Mill, 4-H Leadermeet, Open Skate Fun Day and the Montmorency County Fair. MAE4-HYS also recognized Karen’s involvement at the regional level with the animal science committee and in the planning of two livestock judge’s clinics offered in 2010 and 2011.

 Karen has been instrumental in promoting healthy food at the 5-county Sunrise Side 4-H Camp, planning and shopping for healthy meals as well as preparing and serving them. At 4-H camp she’s taught kitchen skills, CPR and basic first-aid training. With little or no support staff, she has taken on additional duties in the MSU Extension office with a positive and optimistic attitude.

 Congratulations, Michelle and Karen!

Karen Fifield and Michelle Neff receive MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Awards

Pictured (l to r) Karen Fifield, then MSU Extension Montmorency County program associate currently MSU Extension educator, and Michelle Neff, MSU Clare County Extension educator, both receive the MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Award at 4-H Spring Conference held May 9–12, 2012, at Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.

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Deadline for 4-H Emerald Clover Society member nominations is Jan. 31

What do Maggie Bethel, Cheri Booth, Julie Chapin, John Engler, Dean Kiesling, Theresa Silm, Debbie Stabenow and Vera Wiltse have in common? All are former 4-H members. And all are members of the 4-H Emerald Clover Society.

 The goal of the 4-H Emerald Clover Society is to identify, acknowledge and celebrate individuals who have had significant 4-H involvement as a youth and who have made significant contributions to their local, state and national communities. Nominee selection is based on evidence of three or more years of Michigan 4-H youth membership, professional and business achievement, leadership in community service and philanthropy, contributions to or impact on American society, and significant leadership and achievement as a 4‑H member.

 Do you know a former 4-H member, still living, who meets these criteria? If you do, why not nominate that person for membership in the society? The deadline to nominate is Jan. 31. Download a nomination packet at http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/ecs. Mail the completed form to the Michigan 4-H Foundation or submit by fax at 517-432-3310 or email to info@mi4hfdtn.org.

 Chosen 2012 inductees will be honored at the 4-H Emerald Awards Ceremony on June 21 prior to the State 4-H Awards Celebration.

 For a list of current 4-H Emerald Clover Society members, visit the Emerald Clover Society website at http://www.mi4hfdtn.org/ecs/. You may recognize many more names as current or former Michigan State University Extension colleagues.

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Kettunen Center tree becomes Christmas celebrity

When a simple evergreen tree was planted near Cadillac, no one knew it was destined for fame 50 years later. The planting of the Norway spruce celebrated the opening of Kettunen Center, the leader training facility and conference center owned and operated by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. The tree spent its life making the grounds of the Kettunen Center more beautiful. But the stately 60-foot tree was starting to overgrow its space. At the same time, the Detroit 300 Conservancy was searching statewide for a special tree to be the star attraction of the 2011 Detroit Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Winter Magic-Detroit festivities. The Michigan Christmas Tree Association supported the search efforts and found the tree with the help of the Michigan State University Extension Christmas Tree Area of Expertise Team.

Harvested on Halloween, the tree traveled to its new home, Campus Martius Park, Nov. 2. After more than a week of preparation, the tree was ready Nov. 18 for the tree lighting ceremony and festivities, presented by DTE Energy Foundation. The tree reigned over the festivities at the Woodward Fountain next to the ice rink.

View photos of the tree from its harvest at Kettunen Center to its transformation into a Christmas beauty by visiting the Campus Martius Park Facebook page.

Read more here.

View this video of the tree being put into place in Detroit.

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MSU Extension works closely with award-winning teacher contributing to environmental education

One of the outstanding things about our organization is the way that our partnerships build capacity in community leaders.

 Bob Thomson, a Sanborn Elementary School teacher in Ossineke, Mich., who works closely with Michigan State University Extension, won a Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award. Through the award, Earth Force and the General Motors Foundation team up to reward educators who integrate quality environmental education into their schools. Bob works with Michigan Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 4‑H Youth Development and Huron Pines AmeriCorps program to guide his students in learning about the Thunder Bay watershed beyond the classroom.

 MSU Extension is connected with Bob Thomson’s work in three ways: 

  • The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NE MI GLSI) initially supported Bob’s work. This is a regional collaborative network, part of a statewide place-based education programming network supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. Michigan Sea Grant, partnering with 4-H, facilitated the early planning discussions dating back to 2006 in establishing this regional northeastern Michigan network. Today, Sea Grant and 4-H continue to serve as leadership partners in facilitating the NE MI GLSI work in our region. 
  • The Toyota-supported 4-H2O Project, a water science and education initiative, supports Bob and his work. The Toyota 4-H2O Project is funded by a grant from Toyota to National 4-H Council and the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Sea Grant and 4-H partners locally, co-coordinating 4-H2O efforts with the help of Extension educators Sienna Suszek and Melanie Chiodini, Extension program associate Tammy Barrett and Extension program instructor Les Thomas. 
  • Sea Grant is a direct partner to Bob’s project, supporting Great Lakes fisheries and aquatic invasive species studies conducted with his class. Brandon Schroeder, Northeast Michigan District Sea Grant Extension educator, serves as a resource expert to his class and participates in several of their exploration field trips.

 Brandon shares about Sanborn’s place-based water science education partnership, “What’s most exciting is that MSUE has been able to directly support Bob’s class through different yet complementary angles, strategically bringing to the school partnership ‘table’ both 4-H Youth Development (focused on enhancing youth learning) teaming up with Michigan Sea Grant (fostering Great Lakes science education and engagement). This reflects another great example of collaboration between two MSU Extension programs and expertise, and Bob’s class has benefited greatly as a result!”

View this video featuring Bob’s class as one of several school projects of the NE MI GLSI:

 See the October 2011 edition of “Upwellings,” a quarterly Sea Grant publication, to read more about Bob and his relationship with Sea Grant. The newsletter featured his work as an exemplary model of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programming. (See page 5.)

 Read this fact sheet for details about fifth and sixth grade students from Sanborn Elementary studying the Thunder Bay watershed through the help of these collaborations.

 These partnerships are great examples of how our work branches out, enabling others in the community to improve lives.

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