Tag Archives: nancy axtell

Goodbye to Nancy Axtell

It is hard to believe that this will be the last week for Nancy Axtell, human resources director for Michigan State University Extension. She is moving to Los Angeles, California, to take on a new position at The Getty as the director of human resources. This is an incredible career opportunity for her, and moving to California will also let her see more of her children, who live in California and Arizona.

Nancy has been with Extension for six years. While many of you may know her from interviews, New Staff Onboarding or Fall Extension Conference, she has also played an instrumental role in helping centralize human resources for MSU Extension. She’s very proud of the work that was done so that we can relieve some of the work, burden and financial responsibilities of our counties in human resources and financial tasks.

She said that when she sits in on interviews, candidates ask her, “What do you like best about working here?”

When asked that, she replies, “The work that we do. I think it’s an amazing thing what the staff in Extension are committed to doing, and how dedicated they are to using their knowledge and education and research to really serve the citizens of the state of Michigan. In the six years I’ve been here, I’ve had so many chances where I’ve been able to hear about or observe something that our staff does, and I’m always just astonished. I always walk away from those going – ‘we just do the coolest work’ – and I’m very proud to be able to be a behind-the-scenes person who supports an organization that does that.”

While we’re sad to see her go, we’re thankful for all of her dedication. She’s played a significant role in the employment of almost everyone else in the organization. Good luck in your future endeavors, Nancy!

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Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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Here’s your chance to shape FEC speaker’s message

I’m excited to let you know that Keith Smith, director of the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension, OSU associate vice president for agricultural administration and associate dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, has just agreed to speak on the organizational culture of Extension at Fall Extension Conference (FEC), which takes place Nov. 5-6 at the Kellogg Center.

This is great news, not only because Dr. Smith is an excellent speaker, but also because we have the opportunity to help shape his message specifically to Michigan State University Extension. How is that possible? As you know from emails sent out from my office and from human resources director Nancy Axtell, MSU Extension is working with the other states in the North Central Region to take part in the North Central Region Extension Organizational Culture Survey. Dr. Smith heads that very survey and he will use the keynote address at FEC to give us direct results on the Michigan portion of the survey. Our level of participation in that survey will influence the relevance of the talk. What we put in will determine what we get back. We need to do our homework to make sure the response is representative of a wide cross section of our state. Your responses will be very useful as we move forward. Don’t miss this opportunity!

We need your participation! This includes not only educators but also clerical staff, specialists, communication managers – anyone with a 25 percent or greater Extension appointment or equivalent responsibilities.

The survey takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It presents a set of 60 statements that describe various aspects of an organization’s culture. Statements cover making decisions, working in teams, working with others across the organization and creating change, among other things. You’ll be given the chance to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each statement by rating each on a scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” You can select “neutral” when you neither agree or disagree. You can also select “N/A” when an item is not applicable. When complete, you will have a chance to review your answers and make changes if necessary.

Look for another email on Friday from Nancy Axtell containing the survey link. The email will contain additional information about the survey.

The survey closes on July 30. Please take advantage of this exciting opportunity.

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MSU Extension staff member is CANR Staffer of the Month

Jessica Nakfour, Michigan State University Extension unit human resources administrator, has received the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Staff Advisory Committee September 2013 Staffer of the Month award.

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

MSU Extension administrative associate Nancy Axtell nominated Jessica for, among other things, her great working relationship with staff both on- and off-campus, and her knowledge of Enterprise Business Systems (EBS) that has helped us in working through transitional issues.

Congratulations to Jessica and thanks to Nancy for nominating her.

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New staff orientation is like a breath of (icy) spring air

There’s nothing more encouraging than recruiting new staff members and then having a chance to meet and learn with them. Having experienced budget and staff reductions, we may easily become pessimistic about the future of our organization. We hope we’ve reached some stability in our funding, at least for the near future, and with normal retirements and career moves by our colleagues, we’ve found ourselves able to hire some new academic and support staff within Michigan State University Extension.

The hiring has been such that we found a need to provide new staff orientation this week (our last offering was in May 2012). We actually had more demand than we could handle, so we’ve scheduled another session in April.

I had a chance to visit with many of the new colleagues yesterday, and I came away overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, positive outlook and readiness to make a difference in Michigan. These folks are tech-savvy, experienced and resilient to the challenges Michigan’s economy has faced over the past 10 years. What a breath of fresh air it was for me to visit with them! I couldn’t help but be infected with their optimism and commitment.

MSUE human resources manager Nancy Axtell shared that research on the “millennial generation” (those born between the early 1980s and the mid-2000s) shows that as a group the members of this generation have a measurable sense of dedication and commitment to help improve the world around them. That makes for a great match to an organization like MSUE, whose mission is to “help people improve their lives.” And I witnessed that in my conversations with our new colleagues. That’s also a strong characteristic of the “baby boom” generation, those born between the mid-1940s and the late 1960s. And we had a few boomers in the new staff orientation as well.

I’m generally optimistic about MSUE’s future anyway, and after my encounter with our new colleagues yesterday, I’m even more optimistic. I hope you have a chance to work with these new colleagues soon and can benefit from their enthusiasm. I know they’ll benefit from the skills, insights and experiences of their more seasoned colleagues as well.

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Study while you work: Colleagues who can do it all

Fifteen Michigan State University Extension academic staff members have made use of the tuition assistance program initiated in 2007 to help them complete a master’s degree while working for MSU Extension. In October 2006, MSUE changed the criteria for employment as an MSUE academic staff member (educator, specialist or program leader) to include a minimum educational requirement of a master’s degree. Staff members already employed by MSUE who did not have a master’s degree were not required to complete a degree, but MSUE initiated a tuition benefit program for those who decided they did want to complete a master’s degree while working full time for MSUE. Staff members are free to choose any accredited institution and graduate program that aligns with their role with MSUE, and many have found online or hybrid online and face-to-face programs that adapted to their work and family responsibilities. The first graduates completed their degrees in 2009, and we still have colleagues making use of the program. Listed below are those taking part in the program, grouped by the year in which they have or will complete degrees:

2009: Lisa Bottomley, Kendra Moyses, Jodi Schulz

2010: Beth Clawson, Diane Smith, Donna Turner, Janice Zerbe

2011: Laura Anderson, Eileen Haraminac, Rebecca Henne, Gail Innis, Stephanie Marino, Jackelyn Martin

2012: Janis Brinn, Kendra Wills

For more information on the tuition benefit program, please contact MSUE HR manager Nancy Axtell. You can find more information on the program in our administrative handbook at http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.595847/workspace_id.282708/Tuition%20Asst%20Procedures_01_2011.doc/

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Last call for Step III letters of intent

Back on May 31, we congratulated the five colleagues who will be promoted to “senior” educator/specialist status (also referred to as Step III in our personnel system) as of July 1 this year. We also asked for individuals who are interested in pursuing the Step III/senior status for next year to let us know of their intent by July 1. All that is needed at this time is a “letter of intent” submitted to the individual’s institute director with a copy to Nancy Axtell. The memo needs to include the names, titles and contact information of six possible reviewers – three internal to MSU and three external. The deadline for the letters of intent has been extended to Friday, July 6.

All Step III information, including the timeline, sample documents, template, etc., is available in the Administrative Handbook under Step III.

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Step III promotions approved by MSU, letters of intent for 2012-13 review due July 1

The Michigan State University Provost’s Office has approved promotions of five Extension academic staff members to Step III status. Step III is awarded to Extension academic staff members who have demonstrated excellence and scholarly achievement in their work as Extension professionals over a sustained period. Those who are awarded Step III are promoted to “senior” status and their titles are changed by addition of the senior modifier to the title of educator, program leader or specialist. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding senior Extension educators and specialists:

Lisa Bottomley, Children and Youth Institute
Lisa has built a solid reputation as a mentoring expert not only within Michigan but also across the nation, bringing distinction to MSU Extension. Through her work, she networks with scholars and practitioners throughout the country. Major funders such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation have recognized her work, a testament to the quality of her scholarship.

Deb Barrett, Children and Youth Institute
Deb provides excellent leadership in a diverse county. She demonstrated impact through parent evaluations during the We Can Ride Club program. Program assessments indicated systemic change within the New Buffalo School District leading to healthier food choices and activities for students. This program is an excellent example of success and impacts through collaboration. Deb has facilitated significant changes in the overall Berrien County 4-H program, leading to increases in volunteerism and better club accountability and management. Deb implemented new worm farming entrepreneurship curricula, leading to successful worm growing and sales by the clubs.

Martin Nagelkirk, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
Martin is the state’s lead person in MSU Extension for the wheat industry. He uses a wide variety of educational methods while evaluating his efforts and showing impact in significant ways through practice changes and economic increases for the industries he serves. His educational efforts include field research plots, classroom education, demonstrations, newsletters, articles, electronic mailing lists and one-on-one contacts. A tremendous facilitator, Martin works behind the scenes in programs such as the wheat referendum to accomplish many tasks in his Extension role. He works to share his published research results in plant pathology journals with the industry in both written and electronic media. His abilities to maintain funding for his wheat field plots and other activities in the Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE) project are a result of sustained funding from agribusiness and the wheat industry, which see his work as critical.

Dennis Pennington, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
Dennis has become a recognized leader in the bioenergy field, establishing excellent connections within Michigan, the North Central region and nationally. Dennis shows clear evidence for excellence in scholarship including the development of bulletins, fact sheets, education programs and Web pages. Dennis is and will continue to be a major factor in MSUE’s ability to serve the growing bioenergy industry, developing research programs and educational materials to help farmers decide to grow and market bioenergy crops and building capacity through training programs for Extension educators to help develop this growing sector.

William Shane, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute
William is an outstanding researcher in peach breeding. He has contributed to fruit Integrated Pest Management areas with the development of the Enviroweather system while staying in tune with his peers via professional meetings and conferences. William’s research program demonstrates commitment to the area and expertise in the field with patents generated as new varieties are developed. His strengths lie in the research-based aspects of his work as he has made significant contributions to the advancement of the scientific base of his field. His unique position of both research and Extension education provide the opportunity for enhancing the quality, effectiveness and stability of the fruit industry in southwest Michigan and securing the role of MSU Extension at the cutting edge of horticulture education and practice.

 This leads perfectly into our next announcement. Between now and July 1, we are accepting letters of intent for 2012-2013 review. To be considered for the 2012-2013 Step III Review Process, a letter of intent, which includes names and contact information of potential assessors, is due July 1, 2012, with final portfolios due electronically to your institute director with a copy to your district coordinator and Nancy Axtell by Oct. 1, 2012. You can learn more about Step III and all these processes in the Administrative Handbook at Step I, Step II and Step III Promotions.

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