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November 2013 Archives

Dear Colleagues,

On Monday I announced a restructuring of Extension's federally-funded nutrition education program for low-income Minnesotans. Due to the loss of federal funding, we need to restructure the program to match the funding levels. We will do this by creating a regional delivery model that has been used successfully with our other Extension programs. However, we will have to do this with 40 percent fewer nutrition staff.

This reorganization will result in new regional positions and we are encouraging our current nutrition staff to apply for these positions. Those who do not apply or do not receive a position will receive layoff notices after the completion of the internal hiring process in mid-December.

I am saddened that we had to make this decision, especially since we know there are so many low-income Minnesotans struggling to provide food for themselves and their families. Our nutrition staff and educators have made a significant difference in the lives of over 63,000 low-income individuals each year. Working with more than 1,200 state and local agencies, they help individuals and families learn how to stretch limited food dollars and make healthy, affordable choices.

We remain committed to providing educational programs to low-income individuals across Minnesota. While the regional model will enable us to continue to do this, we will not be able to provide the same level of educational programs that we have in the past.

Information and resources for nutrition staff are available on a special section of the Extension intranet. I appreciate your continued support and consideration for our nutrition staff.

Bev Durgan

Next week Extension staff will receive an email with a link to the 2013 performance evaluation form. As indicated in the November 7 issue of enews, Extension will use a new standardized online tool to complete performance evaluations this year. The job performance criteria on which staff will be evaluated will not change; however, the performance evaluation rating is changing to a five-point scale.

Instructions and training on how to use the online system can be found on the HR section of the intranet. For additional assistance, two webinars have been scheduled to address user questions: December 2, 9 a.m., and December 11, 1:30 p.m. Join the webinars through UMConnect.

Staff self-evaluations and draft professional plans of work (applicable to Extension educators, regional directors, 4-H program coordinators and others based on supervisor request) are due to supervisors by January 24, 2014. Supervisors will explain the evaluation process, schedule a meeting to finalize the evaluation and answer staff questions along the way. The deadline for supervisors to complete staff reviews is March 31, 2014.  

Please direct questions to your supervisor.

Leslee Mason
Human Resources Director

Due to system deadlines during the holidays, there are early timesheet submission dates for hourly Extension staff. Supervisors must submit timesheets by the following dates:

  • Friday, December 13 (for pay cycle: 12/2/2013 - 12/15/2013)
  • Friday, December 27 (for pay cycle: 12/16/2013 - 12/29/2013)

Turning in timesheets on the posted deadlines is critical to ensure employees are paid accurately and on time.

If you have any questions about payroll processes and deadlines, please contact Extension payroll specialists Lucy Lu, 612-624-3030, or Nancee Easter, 612-625-3174.

Deb Page
Assistant Director, Human Resources

University Libraries offers BrowZine an application that allows you to browse, read and monitor some of the library's best journals on your devices, including the Android and Kindle tablets. Items found in BrowZine can easily be synced with Zotero, Dropbox or several other services to help keep all of your information together in one place.

To get started, search for "BrowZine" in your app store and download the app for free; when initially launching BrowZine, select University of Minnesota from the drop-down list. This service will continue to expand and add new titles and features.

If you have any questions please visit the BrowZine website.

Kristen Mastel
Outreach and Instruction Librarian

The Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP) Portal Team has an early rough draft of the new U-wide portal planned for launch in late 2014. The portal will be a website that simplifies your online experience at the U by bringing together the tools and resources you need in one place, including HRSS, EFS, myU, the login portions of One Stop, notifications and reporting. As part of the iterative design process, the portal team is requesting staff to preview the draft design and offer feedback that will help guide future design drafts. Visit the Portal Project website to log in, explore and give your feedback.

Sarah Bjorkman
Internal Communications & Brand Manager

Extension Technology has a number of commonly used items available for check-out for Extension-related work. We have video kits, laptops, projectors, chromebooks, an iPad 2 and more available for check-out for up to 2 weeks. Why buy something you may only need a few times? You can borrow these items by contacting the IT service desk. If you are located off campus, we can't mail the items, but we are happy to help you find a ride for them! More information on this service is available on the intranet.

Amy Baker
Chief Technology Officer

Brent Hales, associate dean for the Center for Community Vitality, was accepted for the Fall 2013 Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), an executive leadership development program for academia, industry and government. The FSLI enhances personal and professional development by emphasizing leadership competencies, skills for organizational change, and a broad, interdisciplinary perspective of food systems. The FSLI is a two-year program that prepares scholars for upper-level leadership roles in food system programs, and to assume broader leadership responsibilities within their organizations.

We are happy to announce that Katie Schneider will be joining Extension as the new 4-H program coordinator in Scott County, starting on December 12. Katie holds a B.S. in agribusiness and equine science. She brings experience in volunteer recruitment and community engagement with diverse audiences as a VISTA student at U of M Crookston, as well as five years of experience in conflict resolution through her role as a residence community advisor at UMC. In addition, she has 14 years of involvement in 4-H, with extensive experience in both livestock and the horse project. She possesses tremendous passion and energy, which she is excited to bring to Scott County 4-H.

Kathryn Sharpe
Extension Educator, Youth Development

Shipi Kankane has joined Extension's Center for Youth Development for the 2013/2014 academic year as the American Evaluation Association graduate equity and diversity intern. Please join the program evaluation team in welcoming her to Extension! Shipi recently earned her master's degree in educational policy and administration with a minor in computer studies and evaluation. She will lead statewide survey projects, assist with program evaluation and monitor efforts throughout our work. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn with Shipi this year!

Pamela Larson Nippolt
Evaluation and Research Specialist

Lauren Sorgaard is the new support staff in the Extension Office, Mille Lacs County. Lauren brings many skills to her new position and we are glad she is a part of the Extension team in Mille Lacs County!

Renee Kostick
Extension Educator, Youth Development

John Verly joined Extension on November 1 as a 4-H program coordinator in Jackson County.  John has an ag education degree from the University of Minnesota. He is a former Lyon County 4-H member and was actively involved with the 4-H Arts-In program and showing beef cattle.  

Kia Harries
Extension Educator, Youth Development

Sharon Funk, office manager, Otter Tail-West County, 11/1/2013

Debra Larsen, administrative assistant, Carver County, 11/4/2013

Dear Colleagues,

How many times have you heard, "Extension is Minnesota's best kept secret. More people need to know about Extension."? With over 800,000 participants, 800 staff, 25,000 educational events and 4,000 news articles annually, Extension should not be a secret. All of you can play a role in increasing the visibility of Extension by using Extension's brand when appropriate.  

Extension has invested in creating one system for Extension's educational and promotional materials that reflects the University brand and aligns all of our work under one Extension. Templates and designs for printed and electronic materials are available for all Extension staff and programs to use. Please review current materials and make sure you are using the appropriate Extension brand materials available on the intranet.

Partnerships and collaborations
In addition to Extension programs that we create, lead and brand, Extension is often involved in collaborations, partnerships and events led by other organizations. Just as Extension may identify partners or sponsors (with words or logos) in our brochures, fliers and websites, we may also be listed in other organizations' materials when appropriate. In those instances, you will need to coordinate with your partners and sponsors to determine the best method to be sure that Extension's name, wordmark (when appropriate) and contribution are identified in the materials. The communications department and your center's communication manager can assist you.

Wearing clothing with Extension's wordmark is an easy way to let people know that you are a part of University of Minnesota Extension. Extension is providing faculty and staff with a shirt to wear for Extension programs, media interviews and other public events. Shirts were distributed at program conference in October, we will distribute shirts at the staff conference in April and new employees will receive a shirt.

In addition to these shirts, you can order other Extension clothing through the U of M Bookstore. Wearing your Extension name badge is another easy way to make your connection to Extension visible. If you or your program teams want to create additional clothing items, you can do so by using the Extension wordmark.  Do not create clothing for specific programs (4-H staff use the 4-H shirt templates). All clothing purchases that are paid for with Extension funding (regardless of source) must have approval from your supervisor to ensure the purchase is appropriate and you are using the funds correctly.

Bev Durgan

The cycle for both the 2013 annual performance evaluation and 2014 professional plan of work (PPOW) will begin in late November. Completed forms are due to your supervisor by January 24. All staff are required to complete an annual performance evaluation (exceptions include county staff, students, temporary or casual staff); the PPOW is completed by Extension educators, regional directors, 4-H program coordinators and others based on supervisor request.

New this year: supervisors and staff will complete the necessary performance evaluation and PPOW forms through a new standardized online system. The job performance criteria on which you will be evaluated and rated will not change; however, the performance evaluation rating is changing to a five-point scale.

When the online system becomes available, staff will automatically receive an email with a link to the correct online form (scheduled for the end of November). Instructions and training on how to use the online system will be available on the intranet in late November. For additional assistance, two webinars have been scheduled: December 2, 9 a.m., and December 11, 1:30 p.m. (webinar recordings will be available).

Specific to civil service staff: civil service staff will now receive an overall performance rating, and will receive a salary increase (if applicable) based on merit rather than across-the-board.

Watch for more information in the next issue of Extension enews.

Leslee Mason
Human Resources Director

Extension staff with federal benefits
Detailed information about the upcoming 2014 Federal Benefits Open Season (November 11 through December 9) was sent via email. While you may not be planning to make changes, we strongly encourage you to review your plan's 2014 brochure to learn of any changes in coverage.  Access 2014 plan brochures, directories, compare plans, etc. on the Office of Personnel Management website.

If you wish to enroll in the University dental and/or flexible spending accounts benefits for 2014, you must complete the online form through University benefits enrollment by December 2 (changes are effective January 1).

Extension staff with University benefits
Open enrollment for University benefits is November 1 through December 2. This is the one time each year when you can make changes to your University health plan coverage.

  • Unless you decide to choose a different plan, your medical and dental plans will stay the same for 2014.
  • A new election is required if you want to participate in the flexible spending accounts for 2014.
  • You can add or increase the amount of long-term disability if you are a civil service or union-represented staff employee.

Even if you do not have changes to your plans, it is recommended that you confirm that your provider(s) remain in your network coverage for 2014 because several things have changed, such as life insurance plans, co-pays and new accountable care organizations for the Twin Cities. For more information on coverage and rate changes, please view the open enrollment website.

Leslee Mason
Human Resources Director

Same-sex domestic partner benefits will be offered again for 2014, phased out in 2015. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Minnesota on August 1, and the University is now offering benefits-eligible employees coverage of their same-sex spouse under the UPlan. Same-sex domestic partner medical, dental, and life insurance coverage will not be offered after Dec. 31, 2014, since coverage for same-sex spouses is now available. For more information, call 4-UOHR (612-624-8647 or 800-756-2363).

Leslee Mason
Human Resources Director
(from University Brief, October 30, 2013)

Starting January 1, 2014, the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener program will partner with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Tim Kenny will be the new state Master Gardener director. He has 20 years of experience developing new and innovative programs in the education department at the Arboretum. Julie Weisenhorn will move to a full-time position in Extension as an educator in consumer horticulture. Her work will concentrate on education for Master Gardeners and on developing new curriculum for home gardeners. Forming this stronger partnership with the Landscape Arboretum will be the source of great potential for consumer horticulture education and will mean a bright future for the Master Gardener program.

Mike Schmitt
Associate Dean, Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

More than 300 Extension faculty and staff from across the state participated in Extension's program conference in Duluth for professional development and organizational networking. Many sessions materials are now available for download on the Extension intranet.  

As part of the Step-It-Up Challenge, there are three grand prize winners based on their total step counts: Paulo Pagliari, nutrient management specialist, crops; Sarah Schieck, Extension educator, livestock; and Julie Sievert, Extension educator, ag production systems. They will each receive a copy of Voyageur Skies by Extension's Don Breneman and Mark Seeley.

The program conference survey is open until November 14. Please complete the survey. Your feedback will be used in planning next year's conference!

Ying Iverson
Professional Development Director

Sick of your Moodle sites getting lost in "the University crowd?" Extension now has our very own theme you can apply to your Moodle sites! The theme helps provide a consistent experience for learners in Extension's online outreach, and is available for all sites in Moodle 2.4 and beyond. Visit the Extension intranet for more information about how to apply the Extension theme to your Moodle sites.

Not a Moodle user yet? Log in and request a site to try it out! Visit the University's Moodle website, look for the "Help" box, and click on the link to "Request a site." From there, create a "Development/non-academic course site" and select "U of M Extension" as your category. You'll receive an email confirmation within 48 hours saying your site is up and running and ready for you to get started.

Alison Link
Academic Technologist

Extension leadership and civic engagement educators are recruiting participants to participate in a dynamic leadership education experience--the U-Lead Advisory Academy. The program blends six online learning experiences with five educational sessions held across Minnesota and a five-day national study tour to Washington, D.C. to examine skills, attitudes and opportunities for leadership.

Up to 30 participants will be selected to form a diverse cohort of participants who will learn together from January, 2013 through the end of October 2014. This cohort is a non-traditional learning experience with sessions that employ peer-to-peer teaching, experiential learning opportunities, site visits, varied hours and application of current research. Participants will be challenged to stretch their leadership thinking and practices.

Eligible participants include Extension volunteers aged 18 and older (Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, shoreland volunteers, health and nutrition partners  and 4-H volunteers), County Extension Committee members, Citizen Advisory Committee members, county commissioners, administrators and auditors, Regional Sustainable Partnership advisory members and partners, and Extension collaborators within the University of Minnesota. 

Online registration has been extended to November 18. Registration information, and more information about the program, can be found on the Extension Advisory Academy website.

Denise Stromme
Extension Educator, Leadership and Civic Engagement

Give to the Max Day, Minnesota's annual giving extravaganza, is coming up on November 14. It's a day when our state's generosity shines, and Extension will be a part of the effort. Giving opportunities include Extension Annual Fund, Minnesota 4-H Foundation, Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, Cooking Matters, Leadership Program Scholarship Fund, Tourism Center, and Monarch Butterfly Conservation and Education. You can make a gift or just help promote giving to Extension by sharing a link with your friends on Facebook or Twitter through the website.

This grassroots giving effort will help us expand the base of private support for Extension, increasing our capacity to make a difference. If you have questions about Give to the Max, or about giving during any time of the year, contact Jane Johnson, Development Director for Extension at (612) 626-3717 or or Cara Miller, Executive Director, Minnesota 4-H Foundation at (612) 624-8132 or

To learn more about how gifts to Extension research and education can make a difference in Minnesota, visit the Donate to Extension website.

Jane Johnson
Development Director

This year, the University is offering two ways for staff to reduce the cost of their UPlan medical program coverage.

1: Wellness Program for 2014 (savings of $300-400 annual premium reduction)
Similarly to 2013, you have the opportunity to earn points toward a premium reduction from October 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014 on your annual medical premiums for 2015. For more information visit the Wellness Plan website.

2: Medical Cost Relief Program for 2014 (savings of $100-500, paid as a medical cost credit)
This grant is prorated and payable over 26 pay periods as a medical cost credit beginning with the first full pay period of 2014. Employees qualify for the program based on their tier of UPlan Medical coverage and their household income from the 2012 federal tax form. The application deadline for the program is December 17, 2013. Applications received after the deadline cannot be processed. Eligibility and acceptance for past medical relief programs do not automatically qualify an employee for this new program. To apply, visit the Medical Cost Relief Program website.

Deb Page
Assistant Human Resources Director

The Extension Technology team is inviting submissions for e-learning projects including videos, lecture capture, Moodle modules, podcasts, e-Books creation and more. Selected projects will receive support including up to 75 hours with an academic technologist, assistance in choosing the best learning technology for your audience, and help with instructional design and production.

The Extension e-learning project process provides a pipeline for a broad range of e-learning and technology proposals to be prioritized by leadership and supported in their development by Extension Technology. The proposal deadline is December 1. Visit the Extension intranet to learn more about e-learning support and proposal requirements.

Amy Baker
Chief Technology Officer

Congratulations to Bill Lazarus, Extension economist, for his role in the master's thesis of veterinary medicine student Carmen Alonso, who was named the recipient of the U of M's 2013 Distinguished Master's Thesis Award. Bill served on Carmen's thesis committee, and worked with her on economic analysis. The thesis, "Epidemiological and Economic Implications of Air Filtration Systems to Prevent Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) in Large Sow Herds" will go on to compete for the Distinguished Master's Thesis Award of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools. He is also listed as a co-author on one of the journal articles from the thesis.

Marla Spivak, Extension entomologist, presented a TED Talk in June: Why bees are disappearing, which explores four reasons why bee colonies have started dying in recent years.

The Minnesota Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (MN ANREP) is pleased to announce the following three awards for 2013 given during its annual fall meeting at the Extension Program Summit.  

  • Angie Gupta, Extension educator in natural resource management & utilization, received the Individual Leadership award for her superior efforts related to leading components of the Extension Forestry Program including the Forest Pest First Detector Program.

  • Extension educators in natural resource management & utilization, Eli Sagor and Angie Gupta, along with Jana Albers (MN DNR) and the team received the Scholarship and Educational Materials award for the Forest Health and Resilience webinar series.

  • The 2013 Excellence in Programming: Innovation in Evaluation went to John Bilotta, Extension educator in water resource management & policy, Jenny Winkelman (Mississippi Water Management Organization), and Karlyn Eckman (UMN Researcher) for the MN NEMO Program: A View from the Big River.

  • MN ANREP also awarded financial scholarships to Angie Gupta, and Diomy Zamora, Extension educators in natural resource management & utilization, and Eleanor Burkett, Extension educator in water resource management & policy, to attend the 2013 National ANREP Conference in May in California.

MN ANREP 2014 will be led by President Karen Terry, new president-elect Eli Sagor, and Secretary-Treasurer Andrea Lorek Strauss.

The following Extension employees received awards from the 2013 National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS):

  • Mark Caskey, Extension educator in health and nutrition, Communications award (Radio/Podcast: Home & Garden Report, 3rd Place Central Region)
  • Deb Botzek-Linn, Extension educator in food science, Communications award (Written Press Release:  Canned Venison: Tasty, Convenient Meals, 1st Place Central Region)
  • Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator in food science, Communications Awards (Internet Education Technology: Food Preservation Online Mini-Modules, 1st Place Central Region & 1st Place National)
  • Sara Croymans, Extension educator in family resource management, Distinguished Service
  • Lori Hendrickson, Extension educator in family resource management, Continued Excellence
  • Mary Caskey, Extension educator in health and nutrition, Trina Barno, program leader in health and nutrition, Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator in food science, and Marla Reicks, Extension nutritionist, School Wellness Award (Keeping Kids from Falling Short: A New Look at Fruits and Vegetables in the School Cafeteria, 1st Place Central Region and 1st Place National)
  • Rebecca Hagen-Jokela and Cindy Petersen, Extension educators in family resource management, Mike Reichenbach, Eli Sagor and Angela Gupta, Extension educators in natural resource management & utilization, and Allison Eklund, Environmental Education Award (Intergenerational Land Transfer Collaborative Education, Central Region)
  • Jill May, Sara Van Offelen and Betsy Johnson, Extension educators in health and nutrition, Florence Hall (Simply Good Cooking, 2nd Place Central Region)

Alneida Madrigal joined Extension on October 23  as a 4-H program coordinator in Urban 4-H Youth Development Office, St. Paul Campus. Alneida has four years of experience in the youth development field working in both urban and rural contexts with underserved and underrepresented audiences. She is fluent in Spanish and has a B.S. in public affairs and non-profit management. Coming most recently from the Girl Scouts as a specialist for a Latina initiative, Alneida has gained valuable experience in partnership and volunteer development, program assessment, event planning, as well as the development of youth programs and parent engagement.

Jessica Russo
Extension Educator, Youth Development

Kari Buse will join Extension on October 22 as 4-H program coordinator in Anoka County. Kari has a degree in equine science from the University of Minnesota, Crookston. Her previous experience in 4-H Youth Development as a program coordinator, intern, 4-H volunteer leader and 4-H member has prepared her well for her new position.

Kari's work in Anoka will focus on special events and program, teen leadership, outreach and project coordination.

Betsy Olson
Extension Educator, Youth Development

Welcome David Foley as the new 4-H program coordinator for Houston County! David is currently the Goodhue County Interim PC and has worked in Dakota, Steele, and Goodhue counties with 4-H summer programming. His education includes extensive coursework in program planning and evaluation. David has a strong understanding of youth development and volunteer management, and a passion for 4-H.  

Nicole Pokorney
Extension Educator, Youth Development

Lauren Sorgaard is the new Extension Support Staff in Mille Lacs County. Lauren brings to us many skills and we are glad she is a part of the Extension team in Mille Lacs County! Welcome Lauren!

Renee Kostick
Extension Educator, Youth Development

John Verly, 4-H program coordinator, Jackson County, 11/1/2013     

Rita Marie Yetzer, senior administrative assistant, Carver County, 10/8/2013

Karen Bloomquist, 4-H program coordinator, Pipestone County, 10/14/2013

Nathan Crane has resigned his position as regional director, southeast, in Mankato effective September 30. Nathan had served as a regional director for over five years, and will be moving to a similar position with Iowa State University Extension.

LuAnn Hiniker, regional director, southeast, has been reassigned to the Extension Regional Office in Mankato.  A search is underway to fill the southeast regional director position in the Extension Regional Office in Rochester.

Bob Byrnes
Director of Field Operations