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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,

As we prepare to celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, I want to thank all of you who continue to be committed to reaching new and diverse audiences, recruiting diverse faculty and staff, and growing our own understanding and efforts in diversity and inclusion.

I am committed to ensuring that Extension's diversity and inclusion efforts are closely tied to our program areas, based on our strengths and connected to research. This will help to ensure that our investments in diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs are successful and sustainable.

There are several efforts underway, including: a professional development series on civil rights and reaching key audiences from diverse communities; partnering with the Office of Equity and Diversity to develop online versions of their face-to-face workshops; and sessions at Extension staff and program conferences. In addition, we have launched an internal effort to ensure program teams have current demographic information related to key audiences from diverse communities. This effort began in early 2014 in the Southeast region, with a different region becoming involved each year thereafter.

We have an opportunity and a responsibility to create an environment that supports diversity and eliminates discrimination. While we maintain our individual cultural values, we also appreciate and learn from the diverse cultures that make up our communities.

On this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I invite all of us to reflect and renew our collective effort to address issues related to equity and diversity.

Bev Durgan

Mileage rate change

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The standard business mileage reimbursement rate for personal vehicle use on approved University business increased from 56 to 57.5 cents per mile on Jan. 1, in accordance with Internal Revenue Service changes. Business mileage incurred in 2014 but reimbursed in 2015 should use the 2014 rate.

The standard mileage rate for moving expenses will be 34.5 cents per mile as taxable, with the remainder non-taxed.

Further information is in the rates section of administrative policy at Traveling on University Business. The employee expense worksheet (UM1612) and the moving/relocation expense documentation form (download UM 1357) are being updated to reflect the rate changes. Please contact staff in Finance and Planning for questions.

Madonna Monette
Finance Director

The PeopleSoft upgrade "go-live" will be in March or early April, rather than mid-February, as previously announced by the University. The upgrade is still expected to go live this spring; the exact date will be announced by Jan. 28.

The upgrade includes human resources, finance and student services components. Both Extension human resources and finance and planning departments are preparing for the upgrade and will continue to share information.

Once it is in effect, it will impact staff who handle human resources and finance related tasks as follows:

Human Resources: You will be notified if you need specific training and provided links to specific online modules. Staff who currently complete paper time sheets and absence cards will enter their own time and absence requests electronically via the MyU portal. Supervisors will review and approve these requests via MyU Portal.

Finance: The upgrade's impact on finance functions will be minimal. The finance work stream's training and educational resources provides necessary information. All materials are either job aids or online courses, organized by process. The most important category is "expenses" for expense preparers and PCard reconcilers.

For the most up-to-date information, visit

Leslee Mason, HR Director
Deb Page, Assistant HR Director
Madonna Monette, Finance Director

We have negotiated a reduced rate for Extension employees traveling for business purposes at the Country Inn and Suites in Roseville at 2740 N. Snelling Ave.

To receive the $99 nightly rate, employees must present a valid Extension business card or identification card bearing their name at check-in. For reservations, call 651-628-3500 and request the Extension rate.

Rates are subject to availability and will expire on Dec. 31, 2015. It can be a reimbursable expense or directly billed.

The discount is valid only at the Roseville location. The reduced rate is not applicable during State Fair.

Bob Byrnes
Director of Field Operations

Extension 4-H and information technology are jointly developing an online learning environment for 4-H'ers to work on their projects. It aims to develop self-motivated and guided learners as youth deepen their knowledge and build skills.

"My 4-H Project Place" is a secure, online interactive learning environment for 4-H'ers to work with their peers and leaders. There is no required face-to-face group work, but youth are expected to practice the skills they learn offline. Screened 4-H volunteers, experts in their subject area and trained in working with youth online, will guide them. The project previously was referred to as the personal learning environment (PLE).

A pilot in the 4-H photography project launches this month for 10 to 20 4-H'ers and three to six online volunteers with expertise in photography. An online project learning manager will be available to support the mentors and youth in development of feedback and digital literacy skills as needed.

This is an opportunity to recruit nontraditional volunteers - perhaps local business people or hobbyists who have skills and interest but cannot commit to a fixed meeting time or place.
A second online community, focusing on entrepreneurship, will launch in spring.

The My 4-H Project Place team:

Todd Mehrkens, Jennifer Skuza, Trudy Dunham, Ann Nordby,
Amy Baker, Danny Sussman and Alison Link

Please consider participating in the upcoming webinar "Curriculum Development for Diverse Audiences," which focuses on a curriculum written for youth service providers, volunteers, managers/supervisors and coordinators. The webinar is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m., Jan. 29.

A feature of the webinar, "WeConnect: A Global Youth Citizenship Curriculum," also will highlight cultural exchanges and the youth development diversity and inclusion shared learning cohort.

Participants will reflect on their programs, identify potential opportunities for implementing ideas and select at least one strategy for increasing diversity and inclusion in their own work. Presenters are Extension educators Jessica Russo and Kathryn Sharpe.

Registration is available here.

Ying Iverson Ph.D.
Director, Professional and Organization Development

Comma or semi-colon? Abbreviate or spell out? Is this clear writing?

Newly posted intranet resources are available to help Extension staff with tips on punctuation, clarity and answers to everyday questions on usage, grammar and more. An A-to-Z style guide featuring answers to both common dilemmas in usage as well as Extension-specific topics is available here.

Allison Sandve
Manager, News Media and Public Relations

We are pleased to announce that WebEx has replaced UMConnect, the University's web conferencing tool since 2004. WebEx is available for all University employees to use. UMConnect will be available until Aug. 31, giving staff time to learn WebEx and become comfortable with it.

Our suggested path for learning WebEx is as follows:

  1. Continue using UMConnect while you learn and gain comfort with WebEx
  2. Attend a 1-hr WebEx orientation (pre-registration requested)
  3. Review the self-help guide
  4. Begin exploring and using WebEx with coworkers or friends
  5. Attend a more detailed WebEx training hands-on (Twin Cities campus) or InterCall Live Online and Self-Paced Training
  6. Begin using WebEx for some low-risk meetings, then move on to it as your standard webinar tool

More information is available in the email sent to all staff on January 14 and is also available on the intranet.
Amy Baker, Chief Technology Officer
Karen Matthes, Director of IT Training & Support

Gov. Mark Dayton declared January Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education and Outreach Month. Extension's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) makes the healthy choice the easy choice for Minnesotans with limited financial resources.

Learn more about the designation in this blog post by Ryan Johnson, associate program director.

Michael Brott
Associate Director
Child, Youth & Family Consortium

Andy Robinson, Extension potato agronomist, was recognized by the National Potato Council's Spudman Emerging Leader of 2015 on Jan. 9. The award recognizes exceptional leadership and contributions to the potato-growing community. Robinson has a shared position with Extension at the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University.

New Employees

Betty Berning joined the agricultural business management team as a regional Extension educator on Dec. 15. She is located at the St. Cloud Regional Extension Office. Betty earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture and food business management from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in agricultural, environmental and regional economics from Pennsylvania State University. For the past six years, she worked for General Mills as a commodity analyst and senior buyer for dairy products. She previously worked at AgStar.

Bob Craven, Kevin Klair and Dale Nordquist
Program Leaders
Agricultural Business Management

Melissa Runck started as the new Extension educator in Murray and Pipestone counties on Dec. 15. She was previously a 4-H program coordinator in Nobles County. Melissa earned a bachelor's degree from South Dakota State University in animal science with an emphasis in business and production and a minor in business. Before joining the 4-H program, Melissa worked as an artificial insemination technician and as a cattle buyer. She will be responsible for livestock educational programs for youth and for general agricultural production educational programs for the two counties.

Tim Arlt
Program Leader
Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Tammy Lorch rejoined Extension as an educator in youth development on Jan. 5, a role she fulfilled from 2005 to 2007. She'll serve the southeast region, with an office in Mankato. Tammy has experience working in youth and family ministries and was most recently ready-to-learn specialist for Iowa Public Television. She has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Wartburg College and a master's degree in family education from the University of Minnesota. Tammy has a strong interest in engagement and working with others to provide opportunities for youth and adults to grow. She'll focus on quality in programming and regional planning with an evaluative lens.

Nancy Hagland
Program Leader
Youth Development


Ying Iverson, professional and organization development director, has accepted a new position as organization development and learning strategist for Fairview Health Service serving the University of Minnesota Medical Center and University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. In her new position, Ying will partner with human resources and hospital leadership to design, develop and implement proactive solutions to meet business and organizational needs.

Her last day with Extension will be February 6. Please join us in wishing Ying all the best during a farewell party at 2 p.m., Feb. 2 in 401 Coffey Hall

Ying has been with Extension for two and a half years. During that time, she created a professional development framework and works on a variety of programs, such as the monthly webinars, staff and program conferences, the promotion action group, Foundations for Success, and a new employee welcoming course.

Ying sees her role as a facilitator who encourages dialogue and participation for development on the organizational, team and individual levels. She appreciates the friendship from Extension and is grateful for the experience working with people who make an impact on Minnesotans every day.

Bev Durgan

Dave Moen has worked for Extension in various capacities for 25 years, most recently as program manager for the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program. He retired Jan. 9. Dave describes his career as one of "growing plants and growing people."

During this past year, we witnessed the part about "growing people" first-hand as Dave's experience and sage advice helped the newly formed Master Gardener state office team learn the ropes. Dave prefers to not have a traditional retirement party. Please join me in congratulating Dave on his retirement and wishing him well.

Tim Kenny
Master Gardener program state director

Alison Link has been an invaluable member of the Extension Technology team for almost two years. She is moving to an academic technology position the the College of Liberal Arts. As an Extension academic technologist, Alison worked with Extension programs to consult, advocate, and produce online learning and other learning technologies. Her work in Extension revolutionized our team's offerings in the areas of video creation, Moodle support and general accessibility of online materials. Her last day in Extension is Jan. 16. We will miss Alison and her energy and knowledge.

Amy Baker
Chief Technology Officer

Whitney Meredith's last day with Extension's Center for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) was Dec. 17. Whitney transitioned to Community Vitality, where she will remain through June. Whitney has been an evaluator with AFNR since 2010, and we wish her all the best.

Betsy Wieland
Program Manager Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Rebecca Paulson, 4-H program coordinator, Houston County