Tag Archives: strategic connections

4-H program coordinator attends Expect to Connect workshop and makes a strategic connection

Last year, Jessica Hufford, Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator in Gladwin County, made and built a strategic connection while she attended the Fall Extension Conference (FEC) Expect to Connect workshop and Michigan Capitol visit in Lansing.

During the workshop, Jessica enjoyed learning about the process of government on a more personal basis.

“I learned that we must be very intentional about making those connections with our representatives in government,” Jessica said. “They have a lot of constituents they are responsible to and I can help them to better understand by reaching out and providing them with info.”

Workshop participants were encouraged to try to make an appointment so that they could visit their representatives or senators as part of the tour. When Jessica reached out to Rep. Joel Johnson’s office, his scheduler said that he would not be available during the time frame, but Jessica agreed to meet with his legislative assistant and drop off materials.

When Jessica went to the office, it turned out that Rep. Johnson and his wife were in the office, and Jessica had the opportunity to speak with both of them.

She was able to reconnect with Rep. Johnson at the county fair and also with his wife a few weeks later at another county event.

“The little bit that I can do to inform them on what I am doing to help youth in the county will help them,” Jessica said.

Rep. Johnson is a supporter of the youth in the county and is a long-time buyer at the livestock auction. His support of 4-H has helped to keep Extension programs going in his counties.

This is a great example of how to form strategic connections. Make time to connect with your government leaders in their offices, even if you only have a chance to talk to their legislative assistants. Also, attend community events to keep solidifying your connections.

I hope that Jessica’s story encouraged you about attending the workshop and showed what the beginning of relationships building can look like in your own county and district.

For the second year in a row at FEC, we will be offering the Expect to Connect workshop and Capitol visit. I encourage you to seriously consider attending this workshop to learn tools to embark on making your own strategic connections. Make sure you register for your spot before they are all filled.

Comments Off on 4-H program coordinator attends Expect to Connect workshop and makes a strategic connection

Filed under Fall Extension Conference, strategic connections

Extension educators connect with federal decision-makers in DC

Julie Crick, Jodi Schulz and Holly Tiret traveled to Washington, D.C., the second week of July, to visit with legislators and staff of national agencies and to attend the National Extension Leadership Development (NELD) North Central Region session.

Julie, Jodi and Holly shared their Michigan State University (MSU) Extension stories with Reps. Dan Kildee and John Moolenaar, as well as with staff members of Rep. Justin Amash, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters.

Holly Tiret, Jodi Schulz and Julie Crick pose for a picture with Representative Dan Kildee.

Holly Tiret, Jodi Schulz and Julie Crick met with Rep. Dan Kildee. Photo courtesy of Rep. Kildee’s office.

Julie is an MSU Extension educator who specializes in leadership and educational programming expertise in natural resources with a focus on forest stewardship. Jodi serves statewide in areas of youth development and is a 4-H educator. Holly is an Extension educator who focuses on social-emotional health and well-being across the life span.

“We were able to speak about how our own personal passions transfer into the work we do in our areas of specialization and ultimately make an impact on those we program with in communities,” Jodi said.

“We were really focusing on programs we do locally (and) offered statewide,” Holly said. “(We talked) about how we work together to cross program and combine efforts to best meet the communities’ educational needs.”

Julie, Jodi and Holly shared that they felt prepared and empowered by MSU Extension’s encouragement to make strategic connections and because of the Expect to Connect materials on the Organizational Development Team website.

“Many thanks to everyone who worked on those!” Julie said.

During their time in Washington, D.C., they also visited with agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Farmers Union, the Embassy of Tribal Nations and the Immigration Policy Center.

NELD is a professional development opportunity to strengthen leadership and effectiveness of Extension staff members. Each year, Extension administrators across the country are asked to identify emerging leaders who are working on a critical issue or will be assigned one in the future. These individuals are nominated to participate in the NELD North Central professional development opportunity. NELD hosts four sessions a year. The session in Washington, D.C., focused on leading in a shared-power world.

Holly said that the team took away significant information on themes of leadership from this conference such as the importance of relationship building, believing in yourself and public service, and inspiring your team.

Comments Off on Extension educators connect with federal decision-makers in DC

Filed under Conferences, strategic connections

MSU Extension makes strategic connections in Iosco County

Kelli Rau, 4-H program coordinator, and Jessica St. George, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) instructor, took over leadership of the Iosco County Family Fun Fair and built strategic connections for Michigan State University Extension as the county gears up for a millage renewal.

The Iosco County Family Enrichment Coalition started the Family Fun Fair 19 years ago to educate the community about local programs and services available to families with young children. In 2014, the Family Enrichment Coalition dissolved and put the event in jeopardy of cancelation. Jessica and Kelli volunteered to take over leadership.

“As new staff members, neither of us knew what organizations existed or who to contact to make these connections,” Jessica said. “The Family Fun Fair opened that door and fostered these new connections and partnerships in a way we could not have done on our own at that time. The event also gave the participating organizations an opportunity to see the wide variety of services Extension offers and opportunities for developing new partnerships.”

The Family Fun Fair involves over 40 organizations and businesses annually that provide family-friendly activities and share information about the resources they offer within the community. Through coordinating the event, Kelli and Jessica helped MSU Extension establish contacts with these organizations and open doors to new programming opportunities.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In their first year coordinating the Family Fun Fair, MSU Extension reached 724 participants. Based on the event survey, the participants were primarily people living in low-income situations, and 96 percent of all participants were not currently using Extension’s services. Kelli and Jessica used this data to be more deliberate in planning programs in the Oscoda community for the remainder of 2015.

In 2016, participation increased to 895 community members and 45 organizations. Awareness of Extension’s services also increased 83 percent as a direct result of the Family Fun Fair involvement and the improved program methodology.

Through the Family Fun Fair, Jessica and Kelli also connected to the collaborative bodies within the county and increased awareness of Extension’s services to a larger network of organizations and businesses.

“Also, with the Iosco County Extension millage renewal on the August ballot, having a stronger network of informed supporters has been extremely beneficial in getting the word out to the community regarding the impact of the millage and what stands to be lost if the millage does not pass,” Kelli said. “Our relationship with our county commissioners and administrators has also flourished as a result of our expanded programming and community connectivity.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start in building community relationships. Getting involved in events will help you build relationships with key community members and groups and help to spread the word about Extension. Do you have any community events that come to mind that MSU Extension could get involved in?

Comments Off on MSU Extension makes strategic connections in Iosco County

Filed under strategic connections

How one person leads to another: Strategic connections in District 1

Erin Carter is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator with the Extension Health Research (EHR) and Disease Prevention and Management (DPM) teams. She’s been with us since 2015 and serves our MSU Extension District 1. As part of the DPM aspect of her position, she offers programming in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, Dining with Diabetes, Matter of Balance, Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) and Diabetes PATH. She works with an Ishpeming 5th grade class to offer the SPartners physical activity and nutrition program.

Headshot of Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

The goal of the recently formed EHR team is to serve as a model to promote partnerships nationwide between Extension and university academic faculty to advance health in all our communities. EHR offers “Are You Research Ready?” to train Extension educators to use their health programs, expertise and community connections to work closely with the MSU College of Human Medicine researchers. The team also offers “Speed Meetings” to inform statewide faculty about Extension programming so they may use our programming, our connections or both in their research.

When making strategic connections, Erin told us that she’s not quiet for long.

“When I feel strongly about something I only sit back when forced to do so. With this being said, I talk about Extension a lot, which opens doors to things I didn’t know existed or something I could be involved in,” Erin said. “It’s interesting how one person leads to another and with each relationship, positive things began to happen.”

Erin made an important connection when a person who works in health with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians approached her. He asked her to help him form a coalition at the K. I. Sawyer community.

Once a pristine U.S. Air Force base, K. I. Sawyer, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, turned rural Gwinn into a bustling small city starting in 1955. This all changed after the Base Realignment Commission of the federal government decided to close K. I. Sawyer in 1993. Upheaval of the Air Force base left behind miles of land. Air force properties sold to private individuals, companies and the Sault Tribe mostly for $1 per property. Some of the housing is vacant, but other homes are inhabited by families and individuals, many of whom cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Eighty-seven percent of students in the K. I. Sawyer School are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. The community within K. I. Sawyer, Lake Superior Village, reports numbers of 100 percent free and reduced-lunch status. In this small section of K. I. Sawyer, the former community center has opened its doors to serve these families with volunteers within the neighboring counties. Donations have been the only means of providing services for an after-school and summer program, which offers healthy snacks.

The residents of Lake Superior Village do not have access to health care. The closest hospital is a 30-minute drive for individuals having the luxury of owning a car.

If employed, individuals usually work in service jobs earning minimum wage or just above minimum wage. Since these jobs are primarily in Marquette, workers must take public transit or drive personal cars requiring more cost and hardship.

“It only took me one visit to know this partnership was important and could do some great things in a community of need,” Erin said. “The social determinants of health talks about the importance of healthy communities and how unsafe or unhealthy communities affect everyone. If there are no programs for this community, what will happen to the outlying communities? It takes committed people willing to take the time to see the needs and begin to help the people of a community left behind.”

The coalition came together with representatives from the Sault Tribe, the YMCA of Marquette and MSU Extension. They teamed together with other local partners to offer programming in healthy food preparation, physical activity, diabetes prevention and gardening.

Erin sent us some amazing updates of the coalition’s progress:

  • A kickoff dinner brought the K. I. Sawyer Coalition idea to community leaders, police departments, city planners, early education specialists, garden experts, K. I. Sawyer community building employees, local papers and media, Marquette city professionals and community residents.
  • A new community center kitchen that will offer cooking demos and serve more people healthy food is in the blueprints stage.
  • The basketball courts are being repaved, and the MSU Extension Marquette County 4-H group is working to improve the baseball fields.
  • An abandoned hoop house at the school will be moved to make room for a garden.
  • Buses from the school will transport community residents to the events at the community center.
  • Volunteers from all over Marquette County will start a butterfly garden this summer.
  • Partnering with the Sault Tribe has increased MSU Extension programming participant numbers in the area three-fold.
  • Northern Michigan University students collaborate with us in the schools to bring healthy changes to the school’s students by encouraging physical activity.

Paul Putnam, MSU Extension District 1 coordinator, shared the results of Erin’s work.

“Erin has helped to expand our relationships and partnerships with her joint position, and has community connections in both the Houghton/Hancock and the Marquette areas,” he said. “She along with several other strong community partners are making significant impacts in a relatively short period of time.”

Erin said, “Being one of the core people to start the K. I. Sawyer coalition has made me realize how getting a few caring people together can really move a community forward. I’m fortunate I get an opportunity to see the impact a few projects can make to brighten a community and offer another type of value to people’s lives. Sometimes it feels like reaching out to make a connection takes too much time out of our schedules and remembering the value is difficult, but when this time is taken, it can really make a difference.”

Comments Off on How one person leads to another: Strategic connections in District 1

Filed under 4-H, Accomplishments, Children and Youth, Economic development, Greening Michigan, Health and Nutrition, Housing, Impacts, Native Americans, Nutrition, Partnerships, strategic connections, Uncategorized

Strategic Connections in Saginaw – Maria Millet

This is the second in our series of articles about how our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension colleagues are connecting with stakeholders, if you have a story that you’d like to share, send an email to Katie Nicpon at freykath@anr.msu.edu. We hope these stories will honor the efforts you are making, encourage you, and give you ideas on the strategic partnerships and connections that are in your area.

This month, I’d like to highlight the strategic connections and partnerships that MSU Extension program assistant Maria Millet is making in Saginaw County. Maria took on MSU Extension’s Early Childhood program and implemented the new 8-week parent workshop Building Early Emotional Skills (BEES). MSU Extension educator Gail Innis shared that Maria had a plan for making new contacts, rebuilding existing partnerships and staying open to possibilities. In the past year, she has developed relationships with multiple individuals and agencies that are helping unite Extension’s BEES program with interested participants.

Because of Maria’s efforts, agencies such as Early Head Start and Head Start offered space for Building Early Emotional Skills classes. Health Delivery Inc., the Saginaw Housing Commission and the Housing Resource Center are recruiting participants for upcoming classes they will be hosting together.

The Commission on Aging partners with Maria and MSU Extension. They agreed to aid BEES by providing supervised activities for the children of parents who are attending the series. Maria partners with Foster Grandparents, and individuals over the age of 55 who qualify are eligible to provide supervision for the children.

Maria also built a unique partnership with Dawn of a New Day. This local coffee shop provides catering services weekly for one of Maria’s parenting series. Dawn of a New Day also provided a connection that allowed her to bring WNEM TV 5 to MSU Extension on the day of the program’s open house. The local TV coverage allowed them to air on the morning show about every 15 minutes over a 2-hour period.

From agencies partnering to provide space and recruit participants, to catering and TV spotlight, Maria’s strategic connection building has caused the BEES program to flourish.

Comments Off on Strategic Connections in Saginaw – Maria Millet

Filed under Accomplishments, Children and Youth, Parenting, Partnerships, strategic connections

Expect to Connect: Please send in your stories

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is an organization built upon relationships. With that in mind, we created the strategic connections initiative Expect to Connect. The initiative is built on the premise that every member of our MSU Extension team has responsibility for maintaining positive relationships with legislators, stakeholders and media in his or her community and throughout the state.

Following the momentum of the rollout of the initiative at Fall Extension Conference (FEC), we want to feature your strategic connections success stories in this Spotlight. We want you to tell us about the strategic connections you’ve made, relationships you’ve built and partnerships you’ve developed. We also want to know how these connections have had an impact on your work, on your programming, on the overall organization or on all three. Please send your stories to Patrick Cudney, MSU Extension associate director of operations, at cudney@msu.edu, and encourage your peers to submit theirs. You don’t need to be a professional writer. We’ll help you tell your story. Just send us your story of approximately 250 words, and we can work with you from there.

To kick off the monthly Expect to Connect articles, this first introductory story will focus on the FEC workshop-on-the-move “Developing Strategic Connections” led by Mike Kovacic, MSU Extension outreach specialist. After learning about the Expect to Connect tools on the first day of FEC, participants got a chance to put their knowledge to work in downtown Lansing.

Over 25 MSU Extension staff members had an opportunity to tour the historic state Capitol and meet with lobbyists and legislators to learn more about how MSU Extension voices can be heard in state government. Nancy Vriebel and Scott Jones from Senate Appropriations Chair David Hildenbrand’s office shared insights on the importance of connecting with legislators and other stakeholders on a regular basis.

“We’re here to serve you,” Nancy Vriebel told the group. “We want to hear from you, in your words, how you are working with our constituents.”

The participants were treated to a special visit by Sen. Goeff Hansen along with his policy advisor Peter Wills who discussed key issues and the importance of citizen input as part of the overall policy process. Finally, workshop attendees connected with members of the Michigan House of Representatives to discuss individual programming efforts and the impact MSU Extension has on the lives of constituents.

Two of our colleagues talked about the experience:

“Meeting with legislators was the best part, especially the one-on-one with the representatives serving my work area,” Extension educator Jim Isleib, educator said. “Don’t be intimidated about meeting legislators. They will benefit from knowing you too.”

Extension educator Zelda Felix-Mottley said, “The representatives and senators want to hear from constituents. They are engaging and interested in what you have to say. Our legislators want to put a face to MSU Extension ‒ that’s your face with your Extension story.”

Comments Off on Expect to Connect: Please send in your stories

Filed under Partnerships