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Extension e-news

Extension e-news is the official news source for Extension faculty and staff. It is published twice a month on the first and third Thursdays.

Dear Colleagues,

Counties and University of Minnesota Extension have maintained a strong and valued relationship for over 100 years. Thanks to the support of county commissioners across the state, in 2014, Minnesota counties contracted for nearly 120 full time equivalent (FTE) of Extension program staff through their Memorandums of Agreements (MOA). The majority, 94 FTE, are 4-H program coordinator positions, with another 24 local agriculture educator and Master Gardener coordinator positions, and two family development positions.

In the coming months, counties will have an opportunity to renew their three-year 2016-2018 contracts with Extension for the county-funded positions. The current three-year contracts expire in December and regional directors will be working with each county to renew the MOAs before the end of the year.

The new MOA contracts will reflect a new price structure for positions in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The price structure was proposed by a subcommittee of county commissioners and was unanimously approved at the Association of Minnesota Counties-Extension Committee meeting in March.

We greatly appreciate county investments in county Extension staff and programs, and look forward to continuing these important county partnerships.

If you would like to learn more about our county relationship, please take a few minutes to watch the County-Extension partnership video, Succeeding together, which was recently created for new county commissioners.

Bev Durgan

The U of M Tourism Center invites colleagues to a light lunch and poster session from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 6 in the Cherrywood Room of the St. Paul Student Center to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week. RSVPs are due May 1. More information is available from Ingrid Schneider.

Ingrid Schneider
Director, Tourism Center

The inaugural P&A professional development forum brings together thought leaders from across the University and the greater community. The forum features a discussion on contemporary trends in University administrative leadership and P&A's strategic role.

The first event, Preparing Ourselves to Meet Grand Challenges, is from noon to 2 p.m., 402 Walter Library, Twin Cities Campus, East Bank. Register by Friday, April 24. Or you can join via WebEx at

The Extension Technology team worked with staff across the organization to develop a core technology skills checklist, a tool to help grow your tech skills. This checklist aims to assist personnel and supervisors to identify any knowledge gaps and training needs, and provide employees direction for new areas of learning and growth. Read more information on our Quick Bytes Extension Technology Blog regarding this new tool.

Amy C. Baker
Chief Technology Officer

Extension Technology continues offering one-hour WebEx orientation training as part of the University's web conferencing transition from UMConnect to WebEx. UMConnect will be discontinued after Aug. 31. Orientation dates and registration are on the Extension Technology intranet page.

Check out the latest QuickBytes article for some WebEx tips!

Karen Matthes
Director, IT Training and Support

The Interinstitutional Center for Indigenous Knowledge (ICIK) and the Penn State University Libraries have jointly launched a new-peer reviewed publication "IK: Other Ways of Knowing." IK is an electronic, multidisciplinary peer-reviewed open access journal that publishes original research articles as well as review articles in all areas of indigenous knowledge from a global perspective. The first issue and more information about the submission process are available here.

Kristen Mastel
Outreach and Instruction Librarian

The upgrade of PeopleSoft and related systems is proceeding as planned. The new systems are expected to be operational on Monday, April 20. Several reminders for Extension employees:

  • A preview of the new MyU portal for employees is now available.
  • Upgrade information for Extension employees includes new fact sheets on schedules, absence and payroll for P & A and civil service employees.
  • Once the upgrade is complete, the link to the Libraries homepage will be "Libraries - UMTC" under "Key Links."
  • To locate saved library items, visit the "My account" section on the Libraries home page. Questions on library functions should be directed to Kristen Mastel, outreach and instruction librarian.
  • Staff who make deposits also are reminded to continue this process during the cutover. The procedures -- including links to a substitute deposit forum -- are outlined here.

New employees

Ashraf Ashkar, SNAP-Ed educator, Stevens County, April 1

Frederick Ebinger, rural energy development program manager, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, April 6

Stacy Johnson, 4-H program coordinator, Redwood County, April 7

Pauline Van Nurden, ag business management educator, regional office, Morris, April 9

Employee transitions

After 30 years of service, Terry Nennich is retiring from Extension on April 30. Terry is a regional Extension educator, based in Crookston, specializing in commercial horticulture. Terry has been a leading resource for many specialty crops during his career. Terry brought high tunnels to Minnesota in 1999. Through his research and education program, he has been instrumental in leading the season-extension movement in Minnesota. In addition, Terry is a widely known resource regarding farmers markets throughout the state. Please join me in congratulating Terry on his retirement.

Brian Horgan
Program Leader - Horticulture

Educator Julie Sievert left her position in Sibley County; her last day was April 3. Since 2012, Julie served as a local educator focusing on issues facing livestock and crop producers in her county. She built successful collaborations with local agencies and organizations to educate county producers. Julie also worked the Farm Information Line providing helpful answers to callers. We wish Julie all the best as she moves into her new position and will miss her positive outlook and "we can do it" attitude.

Tim Arlt
Program Leader - AFNR

Sarah Schieck, regional educator, is relocating from the regional office in Morris to the one in Willmar. Sarah will continue working with the Extension livestock/swine team.

Krishona Martinson
Program Leader - Livestock

Jerry Tesmer, former Extension educator in Fillmore and Houston counties, passed away on Monday, April 13. He retired from Extension in February. On March 12, state Rep. Greg Davids presented a resolution letter to Jerry Tesmer at an Agriculture Finance Committee meeting.

The House resolution honored Jerry for his contributions to agriculture: "Be it resolved by the Committee on Rules and Legislative Administration of the House of Representatives of the State of Minnesota that it congratulates Jerrold Tesmer for his contributions to agriculture over the past 27 years, and wishes him well in his retirement."

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m., today (Thursday, April 16), with his funeral at 11 a.m., Friday at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, Granger, with visitation one hour before the service.

Tim Arlt
Program Leader - AFNR

Dear Colleagues,

Please join me on Thursday, April 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. in a webinar to learn more about the results of the 2014 Employee Engagement survey. More information about the webinar will be sent to all employees next week.

The University conducted employee engagement surveys in Fall 2013 and again in Fall 2014. I want to thank you for taking time to complete the survey; 82 percent of Extension employees responded!

After the 2013 survey, Extension leadership, centers and units held meetings with their respective teams to review the survey results and identify one to two actions that would make a positive difference. The results of those discussions were summarized in an Employee Engagement Survey Report that is available on the intranet.

Again this summer, Extension center associate deans and unit leaders will hold meetings to review center and unit specific data from the 2014 survey, discuss the action steps identified last year and clarify changes or additions to those priorities.

I look forward to sharing the Extension-wide results with you and hearing your ideas for making Extension and the University an engaged work environment.

Bev Durgan

The University recently updated its Safety of Minors policy. It is important that all Extension staff who work with minors are aware of the revised policy. Extension centers that manage programs for minors will be communicating directly with employees.
In summary, the revised policy states:

  • All University employees, including student employees and volunteers, must promptly report suspected abuse/neglect of minors (current or within the past three years).
  • University staff who work with minors must complete a background check and online training at the time at the time of appointment and every three years.
  • Extension Human Resources will continue to manage the background check process.
  • Staff who work with minors must complete the "Safety of Minors" 10-minute training through ULearn as soon as possible and no later than May 1, 2015. Once you are on the ULearn page, search for "Safety of Minors" to access the training.
In addition, programs intended for children under age 18 must meet the following requirements, which will be managed by the Extension centers:
  • Register with the University.
  • Ensure staff and volunteers who interact with unsupervised minors complete a background check and online training at the time of appointment and every three years thereafter.
  • Follow health/safety requirements.
If you have questions, please contact the individuals who will coordinate the efforts in Extension: Tamie Bremseth, youth development; Betsy Wieland, agriculture, food and natural resources; and Heather Lee, family development.

Bev Durgan 

The Extension Staff Consultative Committee (ESCC) invites you to submit nominations for the annual Dean's Awards, which will be presented at the Extension Staff Conference on May 5. The April 10 deadline is fast approaching. Categories include: campus-based support staff, field-based support staff, program support staff and community nutrition educators. Visit the Extension intranet for nomination instructions and award information.

Shelly Tschida
Staff Conference Chair

The 2016 fiscal year compensation plan for faculty, P & A and civil service employees has been released. Salary increases for employee groups are effective June 15, 2015 and will appear on paychecks received on July 8. University guidelines call for a 2 percent compensation pool, with distribution for faculty, P & A and civil service employees based upon an approved merit-based plan. Extension's plan is as follows:

Faculty and P & A

The Extension academic salary increase process will be managed by center associate deans and administrative unit directors. The process will be the same as has been used in past years. Unit directors and associate deans will receive tools and instructions to manage the merit salary decision process. This decision process will occur in time for the final budgeting process. Promotions in the Extension academic rank system will be processed separately.

Civil service
As required by the University, Extension civil service employees moved to a merit salary increase process in 2014. Supervisors were required to give overall merit ratings in the performance evaluation process using Extension's five-point rating scale. The rating definitions are outlined in the performance evaluation document. Large groups of civil service staff with common job descriptions also received further detail about ratings for those particular jobs. Extension's distribution plan for civil service was calculated using flat dollar salary increases based upon merit scores, with all identical merit scores receiving the same flat dollar increase.

Bargaining unit
AFSCME Clerical Unit 6 and AFSCME Technical Unit 7 salary increase information is available in the respective contracts. Each unit typically negotiates a slightly different salary increase agreement. The current contracts remain in place until new agreements are reached in 2015. For more information, contact Deb Page.

Leslee Mason, Human Resources Director Deb Page, Human Resources Assistant Director

Last fall, Provost Karen Hanson asked each University college to review and update their college's Constitutions.

Over the past few months, we have reviewed and revised Extension's Constitution, which was then approved by the Dean's Leadership Council and endorsed by Extension's Faculty Consultative Committee.

The next step is for all Extension voting faculty and staff to vote on adopting this revised Constitution. Last week, an e-mail was sent to all faculty and staff eligible to vote in this election. If you received this e-mail, please take time to review the revised Constitution and cast your vote on the electronic ballot by Friday, April 17. Once the Constitution is adopted, it will be posted on the Extension intranet.

Bev Durgan

The upgrade of PeopleSoft and related systems is set to begin April 9. To ensure readiness, all employees are asked to review essential information on the new upgrade section of Extension's intranet. Please follow these reminders to ensure readiness for this University-wide effort.

All employees: What you need to do now

Purchasing: Complete purchases now. PCard reconciling should be turned in by April 3. PCards can be used during the April 9-20 cutover period. If emergency purchases arise during that time, and a supplier does not accept PCards, contact Purchasing Services at (612) 624-2828.

Payments: Plan ahead. Requests must be made by April 7 to be finalized by April 8.

Travel reimbursement: Travel reimbursement should be turned in by April 7 to complete processing before the cutover begins April 9. Travel reimbursement will not be processed during the cutover period.

Absences: By April 6, all employees who submit a form for absences should turn in all absences taken through April 3.

UM reports: UM reports and the Extension financial portal will be accessible, but any data run during the cutover will be "static" as of April 10. Any UM report links that you saved and used before the upgrade will not go into the new system. You can print the page or copy all report titles list and use the list to create your new favorites in the Reporting Center, which replaces the UM reports. You will have the same security access to the Reporting Center.

Supervisors: What you need to know

Extension has many open searches underway. If you are the hiring manager, please contact Leslee Mason or Deb Page to discuss the impact the upgrade will have on open searches during this time. As a reminder, no searches can be posted during the cutover period. Extension will continue to use the Hiring, Authorization and Tracking (HAT) process during and after the cutover.

Please make sure your P & A staff know that they should work directly with you for approvals for medical leave. These will not be tracked in the new system and medical leave forms should not be submitted to Human Resources. If you have questions about Family and Medical Leave, please contact Human Resources.

If you approve time and absences but will be gone during the cutover, please delegate this function. You can learn about this in the upgrade supervisory training.

Leslee Mason, Human Resources Director
Madonna Monette, Finance Director

Two webinars are scheduled for April and open to all employees:

How to build collaboration with your communities
This webinar will provide attendees with the strategies for identifying, connecting with and formalizing partnerships.

Creating an engaging work environment: Tips for managers
This course is designed to provide supervisors and managers the information needed to improve employee engagement.
Diana Martenson
Organization & Program Development Specialist

New employees

Ana Voorhees joined Extension as the brand and employee communications manager on March 25. She will be responsible for Extension brand management, including managing Extension's brand identity system, providing brand identity resources and training for Extension staff, and managing production of organizational marketing materials. She is also responsible for Extension-wide employee communications, including developing and managing the employee communication strategy, managing the Extension intranet, and serving as the editor of the employee and retiree e-newsletters.

Ana brings a variety of marketing, branding, public relations and communications experience from her previous positions at The Toro Company and Gander Mountain, as well as her volunteer work with the Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project.

Please join us in welcoming Ana to Extension. Her office is in Coffey Hall, St. Paul Campus.

Aimee Viniard-Weideman
Assistant Dean and Communications Director

The Extension Center for Family Development was selected to help implement the work of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) via a U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Agriculture agreement. Two staff joined the team March 16:

Anita Harries Hering, formerly of the Extension Center for Youth Development, is an Extension educator and will continue to work out of the St. Cloud regional office. She brings a wealth of experience as a volunteer and chair of one of Minnesota's largest Beyond the Yellow Ribbon regional initiatives and as a volunteer with Operation Military Kids.

Amy Majerle will work part-time with the project and continue her graduate studies in the Department of Family Social Science. She is a Minnesota Air National Guard retiree with 22 years of service, including overseas deployment.

Rosemarie Heins
Interim Program Leader, Family Resilience