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MSU Extension and Michigan Fitness Foundation to provide expertise in nutrition education and obesity prevention in partnership with USDA

As part of a competitive grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Purdue University is establishing one of four regional centers for research into nutrition education and obesity prevention in a nationwide USDA project. As part of this project, Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Fitness Foundation will collaborate with Purdue University and the University of Missouri to enhance nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts in the Midwest.

Our very own Dawn Contreras, director of MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute, and Marci Scott, vice president of health programming at the Michigan Fitness Foundation, will serve as associate directors of the North Central Nutrition Education Center of Excellence, which will be housed at Purdue University.

Being part of this project isn’t just a great honor; it will also be a big strategic opportunity for MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute.

According to Dawn, “Nutrition education and obesity prevention are important issues for our state and the nation. The use of strategic connections is a key strategy for dealing with these issues. The new regional center of excellence will help us link faculty, nutrition educators and implementers, and partners in a way that facilitates increased knowledge and implementation of best practices for addressing the obesity epidemic. It is an exciting new endeavor for Michigan and our surrounding states.”

Great work from Dawn and our Health and Nutrition Institute!

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My story

By Ray Hammerschmidt

I grew up in LaGrange Park, Illinois, a village just outside of Chicago. My dad, like many in his family, was a carpenter, and my mom was a homemaker.

As far back as I can remember, I was interested in science. I attended Purdue University with the intention of becoming a biology teacher. However, shortly after I arrived at Purdue, I realized my interests were more in biology and chemistry. I was able to combine those interests by switching my major to biochemistry and in 1974 received a B.S. degree. Biochemistry was, and still is, in the School of Agriculture at Purdue, and it was through that connection and research opportunities in the Biochemistry Department that I became interested in plant pathology. I stayed on at Purdue and earned a master’s in plant pathology in 1976.

I then studied the biochemistry of plant disease resistance at the University of Kentucky, where I received a Ph.D. in 1980.

Dr. Ray Hammerschmidt

Dr. Ray Hammerschmidt is currently serving as interim associate director of programs for Michigan State University Extension. Photo credit: Katie Gervasi, MSU ANR Communications. July 2014.

In 1980, I received a research and teaching appointment at Michigan State University doing fundamental and applied research on potato diseases. It was through the “applied” work that I became involved with Extension, talking to growers. Although I had no Extension appointment, I worked closely with specialists and became familiar with Extension’s role.

I have taught many courses and have been involved with the Diagnostics Services lab and Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs). I also direct the North Central Region part of the USDA-funded National Plant Diagnostic Network. For nearly 13 years, I was chair of the Plant Pathology Department.

My time at Purdue was significant not only in steering me toward my life work but also in introducing me to my life partner. Many of you may know my wife, Pat. We met on the first day at a freshman mixer.

Pat also had her sites on teaching and received a B.S. in vocational home economics from Purdue. She then went on to receive an M.S. in food science from Purdue.

At Kentucky, while I earned my doctorate, Pat taught in the Foods and Nutrition Department. In 1979, she began doing nutrition programming for Kentucky 4-H.

She started with Michigan 4-H Youth Development in 1981 and became state program leader for nutrition. Later, with organizational changes, she became nutrition program leader with Children, Youth and Families. Our two children, Eric and Sara, were often the guinea pigs for many of the projects Pat was involved with. Our kids were involved because we were involved, and we have many great memories of those times.

Today, we have one beautiful granddaughter. We enjoy visiting our children who both live in northern Virginia. We like to garden and cook, and drive around Michigan visiting microbreweries and wineries, and seeing the sites around this great state.

I’m honored and thrilled that Dean Poston invited me to become involved in Extension administration. Since I’m primarily a researcher, I like to take a problem, gather all relevant information, and think about ways we can solve it. We use research to make improvements. Any research we do is not complete till the information discovered gets out and we can use it to make a difference. That’s what we do in Extension, and I look forward to being part of that process with you.

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Reserve your free tickets for 4-H Day at the Breslin

It’s not too late to get your free tickets to attend the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Day at the Breslin with the Lady Spartans that takes place Feb. 2 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. But you must hurry as tickets are almost gone. The MSU Lady Spartans will take on the Purdue University Boilermakers.

Last year, more than 5,400 fans affiliated with Michigan 4-H Youth Development and MSU Extension attended the eighth annual event, which helped our women’s basketball team earn the fifth highest attendance in their history.

Besides watching the game, 4-H’ers and their guests will be part of the action by taking part in a halftime recital of the 4-H pledge led by Michigan 4-H members at center court. Attendees can participate in 4-H-related activities and view displays celebrating Michigan 4-H. The event allows MSU Extension to showcase college athletics to 4-H members while showing off our programs to fans.

Attend wearing green and white 4-H and MSU Extension apparel to show your support. Admission is free for 4-H members and their families, 4-H volunteers and MSU Extension staff members and their families, but tickets are required and must be reserved by Jan. 27.

To find out more about the event as well as contact information, read this Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications news release: http://anrcom.msu.edu/anrcom/news/item/michigan_4_h_to_celebrate_with_msu_lady_spartans

Please promote the event with this flier: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/219/42830/BRESLIN_CENTER_FLYER_2014.pdf

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Extension educator wins dairy honor

Dr. Craig V. Thomas, Michigan State University Extension dairy educator, became the recipient of the Jim Frey Memorial Award. Given in the memory of Sanilac County dairy producer Jim Frey, the award honors one individual each year who exhibits outstanding leadership and involvement in the Sanilac County dairy industry and who is outstanding in his or her participation in other community, state and national activities.

 Dr. Thomas received the award at the 75th annual Sanilac County Dairy Banquet Jan. 15.

 Says Dr. Thomas, “I consider this the highest of honors since it comes directly from the dairy producers I seek to serve. It is very humbling also, especially when considering the award is a memorial of Jim Frey and the many wonderful Sanilac County people who have received the award before me.”

 The Extension educator did his undergraduate work at Purdue University, majoring in animal science with an emphasis on dairy farming. After graduating with honors, he went on to obtain a master’s degree with an emphasis on veterinary physiology from Louisiana State University. He graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a doctorate in dairy science and agricultural economics. Throughout his career, Dr. Thomas has been involved in extensive research, has published in professional journals and popular press publications, and has produced Extension bulletins.

 Besides working with a milking machine manufacturing company in California, managing a large dairy farm in Florida and serving as director of the Florida Dairy Management Project with the University of Florida Dairy Science Department, Dr. Thomas has vast Extension experience.

 Early in his career, he worked as a dairy and livestock agent with the University of Wisconsin Extension Service and later as dairy and forage crops advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

 In 1995, Dr. Thomas became MSU Extension dairy educator for Sanilac and St. Clair counties. While with MSUE, he has developed many important programs in dairy farm business management and milk marketing. He has helped dairy producers with numerous issues while winning many awards in the process. He currently has dairy educator responsibilities in eight counties: Genesee, Huron, Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola.

 Congratulations to Dr. Thomas on this well-earned award.

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