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Dear Colleagues,

Extension has a long history of responding to emerging issues, and avian flu is the latest. As Minnesota continues to deal with the impact of avian flu, Extension is working alongside producers, state and federal officials, University colleagues and many others to respond to immediate needs, conduct vital research, and help individuals, businesses and communities identify next steps.

This week our poultry team continued to work with producers across the state; 4-H staff responded to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health's directive to cancel all bird exhibitions at county fairs, the State Fair and other gatherings of birds in 2015; and Extension's Center for Community Vitality released an economic impact analysis of the impact of avian flu in Minnesota. You can learn more about Extension's response and see the media coverage on our Responding to Emerging Issues website.

I want to thank all of you who work tirelessly to respond to the many weather and non-weather related issues and emergencies that impact our state. Your research, education, relationships and engagement across Minnesota truly makes a difference.


Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

In May, the University will dedicate the University's Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC) as the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach Center. The dedication will occur during UROC's fifth anniversary open house on May 20.

Both the UROC and Dr. Jones have important connections with Extension. Under the direction of Dr. Jones, Extension was involved in the development of the UROC and we have had offices and a teaching kitchen at the UROC since its opening in 2009. Today, Extension has 12 regional and local staff who office at the UROC and provide education in 4-H youth development, SNAP-Ed, EFNEP, food systems, family resource management, family resiliency, urban and community agriculture, and urban gardening.

In addition to leading the development of UROC, Dr. Jones has a long and supportive history with Extension. Extension reported to him in his role as senior vice president for academic administration from 2004 to 2012. As a professor in the department of agronomy and plant genetics from 1978 to 2012, he was involved in research and education delivered by Extension's staff. In 2012, Dr. Jones left the University of Minnesota to become president of the University at Albany, a campus of the State University of New York system.

Please join us on Wednesday, May 20 for the open house and dedication ceremony at 2001 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis. The open house is from 2 to 7 p.m. with the program at 3 p.m. Please RSVP by Wednesday, May 13 to z.umn.edu/jonesdedication.

Bev Durgan
Dean

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
Dean

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
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Recognizing our colleagues for their excellent contributions is a valued part of Extension's culture. One of the ways we do this is through our annual Extension Dean's Distinguished Awards.

We are currently seeking nominations for the 2015 awards for civil service and bargaining unit staff, which includes campus and field support staff, program staff and nutrition staff (community nutrition educators and SNAP-Ed educators).

I invite all of you to consider the important impact of the staff you work with and take time to nominate your colleagues. This is a great opportunity to highlight outstanding efforts for the entire Extension community to see. Given the high quality of our staff, I hope to see nominations from all Extension centers, regions and units!

Nominations simply require a letter of nomination (two-page maximum), a current position description for the nominee, and a supervisor's letter of support. Please submit nominations by Friday, April 10. More information and award criteria are available on the intranet.

The awards ceremony will take place at the 2015 Staff Conference on May 5 in St. Paul. Extension's annual staff conference brings together more than 200 Extension civil service and bargaining unit staff to learn new skills and interact with colleagues from across the state. I encourage all of the following staff groups to attend this important event: clerical/technical, civil service, nutrition educators, 4-H program coordinators, Master Gardener coordinators, community program specialists, community program assistants and county support staff.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Extension Colleagues,

Earlier this week, you received an email from me announcing an internal search for the director of professional development. I invite you to review the position description and assist us in recruiting Extension faculty and staff who may be interested in and qualified for the position.

Creating a coordinated and integrated approach to professional development across Extension is a priority as we continue to implement Extension's strategic plan and align with the new University strategic plan. Professional development is specifically addressed under Extension Goal #4, "Extension fosters a workforce and environment that drives innovation and excellence and supports a culture of inclusion and collaboration" and relates to the University priority, "Recruiting, retaining, and promoting field-shaping researchers and teachers."

In addition, professional development, including new employee onboarding, supervisor training and leadership development are all priorities that Extension employees identified in the recent Employee Engagement surveys.

Three years ago, we created the professional development position and we made advances in several of the areas under the direction of Ying Iverson. With Ying's departure, we are looking to hire a professional development director who will build on those efforts and work with Extension leadership to create a strategic, organization-wide system.

We are conducting an internal search because we know that within Extension we have many qualified candidates and providing opportunities for advancement within Extension is important to our employees.

The position posting and application information is available on the University's employment website. The search committee will begin reviewing applications on March 2 and expects to begin interviews in late March.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Brent Hales, senior associate dean, to whom this position reports, or any member of the search committee: Kim Boyce (chair), Renee Pardello, Betsy Weiland, Nancy Hegland and Karen Shirer.

Bev Durgan Dean

Dear Colleagues,

The 2015 Minnesota legislative session began on January 6 with 26 newly elected House of Representative members. President Kaler and the University community, including Extension, are already working hard to gain support for the University's biennial budget request. I encourage you to read the U website for more information and join the Legislative Action Network.

Earlier this week, 70 Extension stakeholders and staff participated in the University's annual Legislative Action Day. Members of Extension's statewide advisory committees, representatives from county Extension committees, 4-H youth ambassadors and Extension staff learned more about the biennial request and then met with their legislators to express their support for Extension and the University.

On February 17, I will join deans Brian Buhr, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), and Trevor Ames, College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), in presenting to the House Finance Committee. The hearing provides an opportunity to speak with legislators on how Extension, CFANS and CVM serve Minnesota and the agriculture community.

It is important that all Extension staff continue to support and advocate for Extension and the University. To help us maintain a coordinated advocacy effort within Extension and the University, please follow our government relations guidelines:


  • If you have been formally invited to testify at a legislative event, please send the following information to Sarah Greening: committee, agenda topic, date and time.

  • If you meet with legislators or staffers, please complete this form. The form is automatically routed to Gwen Gmeinder for inclusion in the Extension legislative database.

Bev Durgan Dean

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
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

As 2014 draws to a close, I want to thank each of you for your work in the past year. Together we have made a difference in Minnesota while increasing visibility and building public support for the University. With more than 500 state advisory committee members, 34,500 volunteers, and 700,000 annual program participants, and 13 million website visits a year, Extension continues to take University research and education into people's lives. Extension engages Minnesotans to address many of today's complex problems - water quality, food safety and security, childhood obesity, rural economic development, farm profitability, family finances, youth development, water quality and natural disasters, just to name a few.

I wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday season and I look forward to working with you in 2015!


Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

In October, the University conducted the second annual employee engagement survey. Overall, 64 percent of University faculty and staff participated; Extension's response rate was 80 percent!

I want to thank all of you for taking the time to complete the employee engagement survey. We expect to receive the results in early 2015.

Last year was the first time the University conducted the survey, which is designed to measure drivers of engagement based on two key outcomes: commitment and dedication, which relate to individual motivation; and effective environment, which captures factors within a work group that support success.

Colleges and units were asked to review the results of the survey and identify specific actions that that would continue to create a workplace in which people thrive. During the summer, Extension leadership, centers and units met with their respective teams to review 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.

Thank you again for your participation in the 2014 survey. I look forward to sharing the results with you.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this week, Brent Hales, former associate dean for community vitality, began in his new role as senior associate dean. I am pleased to announce that Matt Kane, program leader for community economics, and Mary Ann Hennen, program leader for leadership and civic engagement, have agreed to serve as interim leaders for the Extension Center for Community Vitality. Extension will be conducting a national search for the associate dean in the new year.

Please join me in thanking Mary Ann and Matt for accepting this additional leadership responsibility and in welcoming Brent to his new role.

I wish you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday next week!

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

In my July 3 enews column, I provided an update on our FY 2014-15 budget and announced that the dean's leadership team would meet in September to review and discuss priority and new position requests.

Following our September meeting, I have approved the following positions:

Extension Center for Community Vitality

  • Engagement specialist faculty position with Humphrey Institute

Extension Center for Family Development

  • 3/4-time position for the Padres Informados, one-year position

Extension Center for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

  • Dairy/Livestock business management educator, ag business management
  • Risk management educator, ag business management
  • Aquatic invasive species educator
  • Livestock educator
  • Funding for CFANS grape/oenology position and poultry position

Extension Center for Youth Development

  • Two community program specialist positions working with northern Minnesota tribes

Extension Regional Sustainable development Partnerships

  • Research fellow/CERTs behavior change and metrics coordinator, half-time position for one year

In May, I also approved several priority and new positions for all of the Extension centers except the Center for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR). I delayed filling several key positions in AFNR until the arrival of the new dean for the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. We have now had a chance to discuss priorities with Dean Brian Buhr and have identified areas for collaboration and mutual engagement. Because of this, some of the AFNR positions requested in May have been approved this fall.

Each center will manage the timeline and search process for each of these positions. Please join me in welcoming the new staff as they join us this fall and winter.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear colleagues,

In Fall 2013, the University conducted an employee engagement survey. The results were made available in the first quarter of 2014. At that time, colleges and units were asked to review the results of the survey and identify actions that will continue to create a workplace in which people thrive.

Specifically, colleges and units were asked to:

  • Look for areas with greatest impact
  • Build on existing efforts where possible
  • Support gradual change, as it is more sustainable

In May, I held a webinar to share Extension's results with all employees. During the summer, Extension leadership, centers and units met with their respective teams to review results and identify one to two actions that would make a positive difference. The results of those discussions have been summarized in an Employee Engagement Survey Reportthat is available on the intranet.

Thank you for your participation in the 2013 survey. I look forward to using the results to continue to guide our investment in making Extension a vital and engaged workplace. I also ask that you take time to complete the survey when it is offered again in late 2014.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the recipients of the Extension Issue Area Grants. Earlier this summer, Extension put out a call for proposals that would advance work in the following issue areas:

  • Promoting Youth Educational Success

  • Food Systems

The issue area grants have been created to support cross-disciplinary work, increase external visibility and demonstrate Extension's comparative advantage to address these complex  issues. Successful projects will create positive impact and contribute to Extension's cross-center collaboration and external partnerships.

Grants have been awarded for the following projects:

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners: Growing environments to foster learning and academic success
Project leaders: Judy Myers and Sara Langworthy, both from the Extension Children, Youth and Family Consortium

Save Native Pollinators, Secure Food Production and Safeguard Our Environment: A science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) integrated youth program
Project leaders: Hui-Hui Wang, Extension 4-H STEM specialist; and Patrick Jirik, Extension educator in youth development

The Fresh Connect Learning Laboratory: Leveraging Extension and community expertise to support emerging food hubs in Greater Minnesota
Project Leaders: Noelle Harden, Extension educator in health and nutrition; and Dana Rieth registered dietician, Lakes Country Service Cooperative

Economic Impact and Enterprise Benchmarking of Market Gardens & Farms in an Eight-county Region of Central Minnesota
Projects leaders: Ryan Pesch and Merritt Bussiere, Extension educators in community vitality; and Brigid Tuck, Extension senior economic impact analyst

Thank you to all who submitted proposals and the proposal review team.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dean's Column (September 4, 2014)

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Dear colleagues,

It is important that Extension take time each year to honor our outstanding employees. Extension's awards are an important way to acknowledge the high-quality staff and impactful programs happening throughout the year.

Once again, Extension will be honoring employees with the Distinguished Dean's Awards this fall during the October program conference. These awards include: Field-based Faculty Award, Campus-based Faculty Award, Diversity and Inclusion Award, Team Award, and Outstanding Leadership Award. In addition to the recognition and plaques, individual award winners will receive a $1,500 stipend; teams will receive a $1,500 stipend for the program budget.

I am asking program leaders, associate deans and department heads to submit the nominations for these awards, and I would like to encourage all employees to take a moment to review the award information and guidelines and share your nomination ideas with the relevant program leader, department head or associate dean. The nomination deadline is September 15.

Please note that there is a new online nomination submission process. If you have any questions about the new online feature, contact Shelly Tschida.

I look forward to seeing this year's nominations and announcing the winners at the fall program conference.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dean's Column (August 21, 2014)

Dear colleagues,

Extension's academic promotion process was established in 2006 to support and recognize educators for their achievement in six categories: scholarship, education and teaching, program leadership, engagement, program management, and service.

Promotion is a professional indicator of personal and organizational success. Extension'spromotion process reinforces the importance of Extension's education model and our responsibility to develop and deliver effective research-based educational programming.

Please join me in congratulating the 13 Extension staff who recently completed the process to achieve the following:

  • Promoted from assistant Extension educator to associate Extension educator:Randy Nelson and Jill Sackett

  • Promoted from associate Extension educator to Extension educator: Jerold Tesmer

  • Promoted from assistant Extension professor to associate Extension professor:Katherine BrandtJose HernandezCharles Robert HolcombNicole PokorneyJessica RussoKate WalkerJulie Weisenhorn and Kari Robideau

  • Promoted from associate Extension professor to full Extension professor:Angela Gupta

  • Reconfirmed rank of Extension professor: James Salfer

I want to thank all of those involved in this year's academic review process--the applicants, supervisors, review committee members, peer reviewers, mentors, program team members and administrative staff.

The application process for the 2015 promotion cycle has begun. All eligible employees have been notified and the deadline for letters of intent was earlier this week.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

This week, I have been at Farmfest near Redwood Falls. It's an annual event in Minnesota that provides an opportunity for the University and Extension to connect with our agricultural partners. This year, we also had a chance to meet and hear from gubernatorial candidates, as well as state and federal legislative candidates, about Minnesota agriculture.

Today, we are honoring Minnesota farm families at the annual Farm Family ceremony. The University of Minnesota began the tradition of honoring farm families in 1980. Since then, farm families from across the state have been recognized annually for their contributions to agriculture, the economy and rural communities.

The farm families are chosen by local Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture. Those receiving this year's honors exemplify what makes Minnesota agriculture strong, which keeps Minnesota strong.

Farm families improve the fabric--and the future outlook--of rural communities. They invest time in serving on township boards, hospital boards, school boards and church councils. They volunteer to help families in need, and to assure the positive development of young people through 4-H and other youth organizations.

All of this is on top of what they do to provide food, fuel and a multitude of other agricultural products to the rest of Minnesota, the nation and the world. You can see the diversity of their agricultural achievements in the 72 families honored.

I am proud to honor the University of Minnesota Farm Families of the Year at Farmfest in Redwood Falls. I hope you will join me in congratulating these deserving farm families.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

We have begun the national search for Extension's senior associate dean and I invite you to assist in recruiting candidates for this important position. The position description and announcement is posted on the Human Resources website.

We have taken the last several months, since the departure of Senior Associate Dean Dick Senese, to review the position and consider various alternatives. The newly posted position will merge key responsibilities from two senior level positions, senior associate dean and chief financial officer.

A search committee representing the various internal groups within Extension, including the Extension Faculty Consultative Committee and Extension Staff Consultative Committee, has met and is now working on recruitment. Members are: Ben Anderson, Trina Adler Barno, Denise Trudeau Poskas, Ying Iverson, Krishona Martinson, Matt Kane, Brian McNeill, Megan Thorson, Lissa Pawlisch, Tom Rothman and chair David Werner.

We hope to conduct interviews in mid-October. Information about those interviews will be shared in future issues of enews.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

This week we closed the books on fiscal year 2014 and began fiscal year 2015. So, I thought this would be a good time to give you a budget update. 
 
As we look to the new fiscal year, we anticipate a steady budget with slight increases in federal and county funding. Extension's funding comes from numerous sources: State 40%; Grants, Gifts and Program Income 26%; County Government 20% and Federal 14%.

  • Extension's state allocation (O & M funds and State Special) is nearly unchanged, down less than 1% with a final allocation of just over $27 million.
  • Our county partners remain strong supporters of Extension and our calendar year commitments show a 2.35% increase in funding, topping $14 million.  
  • Our grants, gifts and program income funds appear to remain strong, especially with the return of SNAP-Ed funding.  
  • The best news this year may come from our federal partners with an increase in Smith-Lever funding of 9.2%, bringing our federal formula funding to just under $10.5 million.

While I am pleased with this budget projection, it is also important to note that we must always be prepared for reductions during the year. Looking back at 2009 through 2013, Extension had a reduction in at least one funding source in each of these years. For example, in 2013 we experienced a major reduction in our federal Smith Lever funds and SNAP-Ed grant funding. In 2012, Extension internally funded a 2.5% salary increase, and in 2011, 2010 and 2009 Extension experienced 5.0%, 6.2% and 5.8% in state reductions, respectively.
 
During this year's budget process, we approved a number of new positions. The associate deans have been notified of those positions which will be posted in the coming months. The dean's leadership team will meet in September to review and discuss priority and new position requests.
 
I want to thank all of the staff in finance and accounting who have worked so tirelessly to complete another fiscal year.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Every day, Extension's education and research is supported by our friends who give of their time and money to ensure that we continue to make a difference in Minnesota and the world. This last month has definitely highlighted that for me. 

Sunday night, KARE-11 featured a beautiful and moving story of Curt Chergosky's generous gift worth over $4 million to 4-H. His gift supports 4-H programs statewide and in southwestern Minnesota, as well as a scholarship in memory of his late fiancée, 4-H program coordinator Andrea Ruesch. If you have not already shed a tear over this story, please take a few minutes to watch what KARE-11 called a gift for the ages.

On May 21, there was laughter and tears as we celebrated another generous gift in honor of former regent, county commissioner and mayor, Mary Page. Her family chose to honor her memory in a way that was as action-oriented as she was. They created the Mary J. Page Community-University Partnerships Fund to support community-driven projects through the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.

And, each summer I get an opportunity to laugh and share stories with our Extension retirees. Last week, more than 25 retirees met in Detroit Lakes for our annual luncheon. We will hold another luncheon for retirees in the Twin Cities in July.

While I was "up north" I also had an opportunity to meet with three donors to thank them for their financial commitments to our programs and discuss future gifts to Extension. I look forward to announcing more gifts as our friends continue to learn of the many ways they can support the issues, impacts and communities they are passionate about. 

I encourage you to work with our development professionals, Jane Johnson, Cara Miller and Brad Starbuck as you consider opportunities for your programs. Please check out Extension's giving website if you would like to support any of these funds. 

Bev Durgan 
Dean 

Dear colleagues,

As a part of the 2014 centennial celebration of the Smith-Lever Act, which created the national system for Extension, thirteen states are engaging in a project called "Extension Reconsidered," designed to create community discussions about the next 100 years of Extension.

University of Minnesota Extension, in partnership with colleagues from Design Thinking at the College of Design will develop and facilitate a series of meaningful and creative discussions for our state's Extension Reconsidered using Design Thinking. Minnesota's Extension Reconsidered team plans on hosting four conversations and an event: May 21 - Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) statewide meeting; July 30-31 - Rural Design Conference "Thriving by Design II" (Crookston); August 27 - Extension Citizen Advisory Committee conversation (Twin Cities); and October 6-7 - Extension Fall Conference (Bloomington).  

The first conversation in May resulted in energetic discussions that envisioned a vibrant future for Extension. Participants discussed how to ensure Extension remains resilient, innovative and agile, how it could partner beyond the University, how it could address climate change-related issues, changing demographics and technological innovation, and how it might strengthen individual self-reliance through skill building.

The planning team will provide summary reports of the discussions. Watch for more information on the reports and how you can engage in these discussions. The planning committee is: Cathy Jordan, director; Andrew Furco, associate vice president for public engagement; Neil Linscheid, Extension educator; Sherry Boyce, Extension educator; Emily Krekelberg, Extension educator; Michele Anderson, rural program director, Springboard for the Arts; Houa Vue, Minnesota Department of Human Services; Jeff Gorfine, Rochester Public Schools; Kathy Draeger, director, RSDP; Dan Gilchrist, assistant program director, RSDP; Okey Ukaga, executive director, NE RSDP; Virajita Singh, senior research fellow/ adjunct assistant professor, Design Thinking, College of Design; and Kamana Dhakhwa, research fellow, Design Thinking, College of Design.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Please join me on Wednesday, May 21 to learn more about the results of the Employee Engagement Survey and to discuss action steps. I will host a webinar from 2-3 pm that can be accessed through UMConnect.  If you are on campus, please feel free to join us in Room 401 Coffey Hall.

The topic of employee engagement is important to the University and Extension. Actively engaged employees create results that make a difference. Throughout the state, Extension employees interact with our customers, program participants and partners, reflecting the quality and impact of our education and research at every point of interaction. This gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we already do that enhances engagement and what we can do to improve it.

During the past week, I had the honor of recognizing a few of our engaged employees during the 2014 Extension Staff Conferences. This year the conference was offered in two locations, May 6 in Bemidji and May 14 in Mankato, with 180 staff attending one of the two locations.

It is always a pleasure to recognize our distinguished colleagues at the annual conferences. This year the following Extension colleagues received the distinguished dean's awards:

Nutrition Educator Award: Betty Wistrom, nutrition educator, St. Louis county
Campus Staff Award: Deb Page, Human Resources, St. Paul
Field Staff Award: Sharon Leopold, Worthington Regional Office
Program Staff Award: Lorelei Finley, Pine County 4-H program coordinator

Please join me in congratulating our colleagues.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the federal act that established the Cooperative Extension Service, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and land-grant universities to extend research-based knowledge through outreach education. University of Minnesota was ahead of the curve, establishing Extension in 1909, five years before the 1914 federal act which established a state-by-state national network to improve the lives of families, youth, farmers, communities and businesses. There will be several celebrations in Washington DC next week.

We had an opportunity to celebrate this week in Minnesota with Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Dr. Ramaswamy was in Minnesota to speak at an international conference on food and science. He then spent two days learning more about University of Minnesota research, education and Extension. Extension faculty and staff in northeast Minnesota hosted him at the Cloquet Forestry Center yesterday. Dr. Ramaswamy and I were both very impressed in hearing about the research and extension programs that are making a significant difference in Minnesota and the world.

This week we also launched a new video about Extension in Minnesota as we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act. Extending knowledge, changing lives is about 3 minutes, making it quick and easy to share with our partners, donors and other stakeholders. More information about the Smith-Lever anniversary is available on the Cooperative Extension website.

In addition, you can join in the celebrations through social media, which is a key part of the national awareness campaign. Extension staff who administer social media accounts can participate by attaching the hashtag #Ext100Years to tweets and Facebook entries throughout 2014. The hashtag is particularly relevant when highlighting your research, programming and educational events...anything that demonstrates the value of Extension. On May 8 only, be sure to attach #CE100 to your tweets. For questions, contact Allison Sandve.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Last fall, the University conducted an employee engagement survey. Overall, 57 percent of University faculty and staff participated; Extension's response rate was 76 percent!

The survey measured drivers of engagement based on two key outcomes: commitment & dedication, which relates to individual motivation; and effective environment, which captures factors within a work group that support success. The University plans to conduct the survey annually.

Colleges and units are now reviewing the results of the survey to identify specific actions that will continue to create a workplace in which people thrive. Extension leadership recently reviewed our results. Two areas that emerged as opportunities for action were new employee orientation and working across program areas. Both of these are issues we have put additional resources into in the last few years and we look forward to continuing to identify actions that will support new employees and cross-discipline programming. You will hear more about these action plans in the coming months.

In addition, we will be sharing Extension's results and engaging employees in discussions to identify individual and collective actions in the following ways:

  • I will host an employee webinar to share the Extension-wide results
  • I will review the results with Extension's Faculty Consultative Committee (EFCC) and Staff Consultative Committees (ESCC)
  • A breakdown of results by units will be shared by the leaders of the four Extension centers, RSDP, field operations and the dean's office

Thank you for your participation in the survey. I look forward to using the results to continue to guide our investment in making Extension a vital and engaged workplace.
 

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dean's Column (April 3, 2014)

Untitled Document

Dear Colleagues,

Next week, I will join our government relations staff in hosting U of M Extension staff and association delegates at the annual Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD)conference in Washington, D.C. This national conference provides two days of intensive public issues education and professional development before Extension staff meet with Minnesota's federal senators, representatives and their staff.

During the conference, Extension faculty and educators learn about the current legislative session, budgets, policy issues and how to build relationships with federal legislators and their staff.

Several U of M Extension educators will attend the conference and are scheduled to visit the offices of Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Representatives John Kline, Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz to advocate for Extension and tell their stories about how Extension is addressing current issues and challenges in their Minnesota districts.

The U of M Extension delegates include Ellie McCann, family development educator, ESP; Neil Linscheid, community economics educator, MACLEP; Dave Nicolai, crops educator, MAEAP; Amanda Sommers, youth development educator, MAE4-HYDP; Katherine Brandt, food safety educator, NEAFCS; Kathy Olson, family development educator, NEAFCS president; Barb Radke, leadership and civic engagement educator and PILD presenter; Sarah Greening, chief of staff; and Gwen Gmeinder, government relations associate.   

It is important for our federal legislators to understand the value of Extension. Visiting with them in Washington has a positive impact on their awareness of our programs and resources. This year we have the added benefit of four 4-H Minnesota youth joining our visits to "the hill."

My thanks to the staff who are investing in this professional development opportunity and building active support for Extension.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,
 
Every year, Extension acknowledges the contributions of our distinguished campus and field support staff, program staff and nutrition staff (community nutrition educators and SNAP-Ed educators) through the Extension Dean's distinguished awards for civil service and bargaining unit staff. 
 
I invite all of you to consider the important impact created by the staff you work with and take time to nominate your colleagues. This is a great opportunity to highlight outstanding efforts for the entire Extension community to see. Given the high quality of our staff, I hope to see nominations from all Extension centers, regions and units!
 
Nominations simply require a letter of nomination (two page maximum), a current position description for the nominee, and a supervisor's letter of support. Please submit nominations to stschida@umn.edu  by Monday, April 3.  If you have any questions, please refer to the awards section on the Extension intranet for award criteria or contact Shelly Tschida.
 
The awards ceremony will take place at the 2014 staff conferences: Tuesday, May 6 in Bemidji and Thursday, May 14 in Mankato.

Bev Durgan
Dean 

This year, Extension will host the annual staff conference in two separate locations: May 6 in Bemidji at the Sanford Center, and May 14 in Mankato at the Verizon Center. These two locations were chosen to make it easier for staff to attend by reducing travel and out-of-office time.

Extension's staff conference brings together more than 200 Extension civil service and bargaining unit staff to learn new skills and interact with colleagues from across the state. I encourage all of the following staff groups to attend this important event: clerical/technical, civil service, nutrition educators, 4-H program coordinators, Master Gardener coordinators, community program specialists, community program assistants and county support staff. Additional conference details and registration will be available in March.

During the staff conference, I will present the annual awards for campus and field-based support staff, program staff and nutrition educator. Supervisors and colleagues are encouraged to nominate staff for these awards. Please submit your nominations by April 18.

Next year, the staff conference will be held in one location in the Twin Cities area. The plan is to alternate every other year between one Twin Cities location and two Greater Minnesota locations; we will monitor feedback about this change very closely over the next couple years to determine if this plan will work.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues

In 2014, National Cooperative Extension System will celebrate the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which created the national system for Extension. As part of this celebration, several states will engage in a project called "Extension Reconsidered." This project is supported by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation and includes special events across the country during this anniversary year.

University of Minnesota Extension will join 12 other states in hosting a public forum to engage citizens in imagining Extension's vision for the 21st century. University of Minnesota Extension's public event will be held on July 31 in Crookston as a part of a statewide Design Conference. We will share more information later this spring and summer as the event is planned.

We look forward to engaging citizens in this time for thoughtful and creative discussions. Throughout our first century, Extension organized opportunities for people to come together to address public problems and express their hopes and ideals. As we begin our second century, the Smith-Lever centennial and "Extension Reconsidered" will give us an opportunity to bring together a variety of people and perspectives to imagine how our legacy can grow in the 21st century.

Bev Durgan
Dean


Dear Colleagues,

This week, I have a few updates for you:

Senior associate dean
As you know, Dick Senese, senior associate dean, took a new position at Capella University and his last day with Extension was Monday. I have distributed the responsibilities on an interim basis while we take time to assess our needs. I will be working with the leadership team over the next several weeks to identify needs and explore ideas before defining and posting a position.

SNAP-Ed funding
A new five-year Farm Bill and the president's 2014 budget have passed the U.S. House and Senate. Both restore most of the funding for the national SNAP-Ed program. We are pleased to see this support for SNAP-Ed and will use any additional funding to add staff to our new regional model.

However, we do not expect to receive all of the funding outlined in the Farm Bill and the president's budget. While funding is authorized in the Farm Bill, the actual appropriations are determined each year and may be less than what is authorized, based on national budget realities. In addition, Minnesota's SNAP-Ed funding is scheduled to be reduced by at least 10 percent each year for the next four years as part of a national effort to redistribute the SNAP-Ed funding across the states. And, the SNAP-Ed grant is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health, which contracts with Extension to deliver the nutrition education to SNAP-eligible participants. As with all grants, we cannot assume the funding is recurring. This is why we are committed to our new regional model that will allow us to expand and contract based on the actual funding.

Smith-Lever anniversary
2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act. This federal act established the Cooperative Extension Service, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and land-grant universities to extend research-based knowledge through outreach education. University of Minnesota was ahead of the curve, establishing Extension in 1909, five years before the 1914 federal act which established a state-by-state national network to improve the lives of families, youth, farmers, communities and businesses. While we celebrated Extension's centennial in 2009, we will be observing the federal anniversary in 2014. Watch for more information about how you can participate in the national social media campaign and other opportunities to support the anniversary.


Bev Durgan
Dean

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.

We have several efforts underway, including: the launch of a professional development series in 2014 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 are launching an internal effort to ensure program teams have current demographic information related to key audiences from diverse communities. This effort with begin 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, diversity and inclusion.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

I enter this holiday season and end of year with both a grateful and heavy heart.

I am grateful for all of you and the work you do to make a difference in Minnesota. Throughout the year, your education, research and engaged outreach helps to keep our food safe and affordable, prepares today's youth to thrive in a complex world, ensures Minnesota communities are strong, improves our environment and helps families make better decisions.

I am very proud of the work you do and look forward to scheduling visits throughout Minnesota in 2014 to see your programming in action.

At the same time, it is a difficult and sad time for Extension. Earlier this week, following an internal search process, nutrition staff who did not apply for or receive a position in the new regional nutrition system were sent layoff notices. Their last day with Extension will be January 14.

As you know from previous messages, we are restructuring 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 reduced funding levels. To do this, we are creating a new regional model for nutrition education with 40 percent fewer nutrition staff.

This reduction was a very difficult decision to make. Our community nutrition educators make a positive difference in the lives of low-income Minnesotans struggling to provide food for themselves and their families. With this restructuring, many of our nutrition colleagues will no longer have a position in Extension. This is indeed a very painful holiday season for the Extension nutrition staff and their colleagues and friends across Extension. I ask for your continued support and consideration of your colleagues.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Today I want to answer a few of the questions that have been asked since our November 18 announcement of the Extension nutrition restructuring.

As you know from previous messages, the restructuring of Extension's federally funded nutrition education program for low-income Minnesotans is necessary due to the loss of federal funding. We need to restructure the program to match the funding levels. To do this, we are creating a new regional model for nutrition education with 40 percent fewer nutrition staff.

What investments has Extension made in the nutrition program?
During federal fiscal year 2013, rather than make immediate cuts in the program, Extension covered the loss of over 30 percent of the federal funding for the nutrition program.  

In addition, like all Extension programs, Extension annually invests other funds in the program that go toward operations, salaries, professional development and programming. For the nutrition program, that has totaled over $1M annually in non-federal funding from Extension. We will continue to make that investment in the new regional nutrition model.

And, I am committed to continuing to find additional funds for our nutrition programs and to work with our federal partners to restore the federal funding.

What impact has funding the nutrition budget cut had on other Extension programs?
Covering the reduction in federal funding for the last year was a significant and intentional decision. Our goal was to support this program without compromising our other Extension programs.

During the last year, in addition to reducing the operations and staffing budgets in the nutrition program and Center for Family Development, I asked the other associate deans and unit directors to be fiscally conservative with their operations and staff budgets. This means we have held on filling some open or new positions in other centers. I will continue to work with the associate deans to evaluate each request for positions.

What is the timeline that we need to know about?

  • The internal search process will be completed December 16.
  • Layoff notices will be sent on December 17 to nutrition staff who do not apply or receive a new nutrition position.
  • Later in December, information will be sent to staff about what to do with nutrition files and materials in the county offices.
  • January 14 is the last day of employment for staff who receive layoff notices.
  • In the New Year, the new regional staff will work with local community partners to determine educational programs and delivery models.

Thank you again for your support of our nutrition programs.

Bev Durgan
Dean

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
Dean

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.

Clothing
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
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, Extension faculty and educators from across the state met in Duluth for the annual program conference focused on professional development, program building and organizational networking. During the conference, I gave the annual State of Extension Update. 

Also at the conference, I had the pleasure of giving out the annual dean's awards. Please join me in congratulating the award winners:

Friend of Extension - Connie Greer, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity at the Minnesota Department of Human Services

Campus-Based Faculty - Dr. Marla Spivak, Extension entomologist

Field-Based Faculty - Rebecca Harrington, Extension educator, youth development

Outstanding Leadership - Dr. Jeffrey Reneau, Extension animal scientist and Extension program leader

Diversity - Leadership and Civic Engagement Team: Ryan Allen, Peter Campion, Eriks Dunens, Mary Ann Hennen, Lisa Hinz, Jody Horntvedt, Mike Liepold, Barb Radke, Catherine Rasmussen, Lori Rothstein, Toby Spanier, Denise Stromme, Denise Trudeau Poskas

Team - 4-H State Fair Leadership Team: Brad Rugg, Amber Runke, Todd Mehrkens, Karen Nelson, Kristen Delph, Wendy Huckaby, Jacquie Lonning, Jan Derdowski

Congratulations to all the award winners!

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Developing leaders is important for every organization and it is something we value in Extension. Each year, we invest in sending 3-4 faculty and staff to participate in the National Extension Leadership Development (NELD) program.

The purpose of the program is to give current and future Extension leaders and administrators an opportunity to learn about and strengthen leadership skills, develop a better understanding of their own leadership styles, and build networks across regional and national Extension.

I am pleased to announce the University of Minnesota Extension participants for the class of 2014: Tammy McCulloch, regional director; Joel Haskard, regional sustainable development partnerships, Krishona Martinson, associate professor and Extension equine specialist; and Rebecca Harrington, Extension educator in youth development. They will join colleagues from across the north central region in the year-long leadership development program.

Finishing the NELD class of 2013 are Extension participants Amy Baker, chief technology officer; Kia Harries, Extension educator in youth development; Susanne Hinrichs, regional director; and Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension educator in family development.

I encourage you to talk with your colleagues about their experience and ask them to share what they have learned.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

On September 14, Extension will take part in the inaugural Celebrate Ag & Food Day during the Gopher Football game against Western Illinois. This is a new venture for Extension and an exciting example of our growing development efforts.

Extension is partnering with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and others on this special opportunity. Extension friends, college alumni and agricultural leaders are invited to the game at the TCF Bank Stadium to celebrate and show your support for Minnesota agricultural and food industries.

Extension staff and friends can order tickets at a special rate of $15 (select the button under "CFANSWESTERNILLINOIS2013FB"). Tickets must be purchased by September 13 to be a part of this group.

I look forward to seeing you at the game! Don't forget to show your support by wearing Extension clothing.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues

The Great Minnesota Get-Together - aka the 2013 Minnesota State Fair - will run Aug. 22 to Sept. 2. Once again, Extension will be showcased at the Fair. If you have a chance to visit the Fair, be sure to visit your Extension colleagues, volunteers and participants:

4-H Building

  • More than 6,000 4-H exhibits and performing arts shows feature the knowledge and skills 4-H'ers have acquired throughout the year. About 2,200 "blue ribbon" kids exhibit livestock in the animal barns. See the 4-H State Fair website for daily highlights and results.
  • There are several exciting science activities to try in the 4-H building, including Rube Goldberg machines,mini and human size hovercrafts, a remotely controlled super robot, and a makey makey maker.
  • Extension will host an exhibit in the UM Building on Sunday, September 1 from 9 am - 9 pm. The exhibit will feature an "Are You Smarter than a 4-H'er" quiz and 4-H rabbit agility demonstrations.

University of Minnesota Building

  • Extension will host an exhibit in the UM Building on Sunday, September 1 from 9 am - 9 pm. The exhibit will feature an "Are You Smarter than a 4-H'er" quiz and 4-H rabbit agility demonstrations.

Agriculture-Horticulture Building

  • Master Gardener volunteers will answer gardening questions each day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visitors can also watch Master Gardeners present gardening education throughout the day on The Dirt Stage.
  • The Honey Bees program team, including Gary Reuter, Extension entomologist, will show off a "bee beard" on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 1 p.m.

DNR Building

  • Gary Wyatt, Extension educator in natural resource management and utilization, will present "Controlling woody invasive plants" on the DNR stage on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.
  • Master Naturalists will be available each day, in the wildlife wing, to answer questions about wildlife in Minnesota.

Minnesota Public Radio

  • Mark Seeley, Extension climatologist, will appear on MPR Presents Tuesday, Aug. 27, from noon to 1 p.m., with Cathy Wurzer and Paul Huttner. MPR broadcasts from the corner of Judson and Nelson.

For a complete schedule and map of University events that will be taking place at the fair, see U at the State Fair.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Next week marks the start of Farmfest 2013, which is held near Redwood Falls. Farmfest, Minnesota's largest farm-related gathering, in which Extension has a strong presence, has an emphasis on national and state agricultural and rural policy issues.

On Thursday, August 8, Extension and the University will recognize farm families from 76 Minnesota counties for their contributions to agriculture, our economy and rural communities. The University started the Farm Family of the Year program 33 years ago to recognize successful farm families for their positive impact in Minnesota. Local Extension committees choose the families for demonstrating commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture. The families represent each county participating in the program.

Farm families and agriculture are a major driver of Minnesota's economy and the vitality of Minnesota's rural communities. Farmers contribute in ways that matter to the entire state, providing more than 340,000 jobs and $75 billion in economic activity. They also contribute their time and skills to solve community problems, and keep their schools, businesses and youth organizations strong. Many volunteer for 4-H and other groups, and donate generously to these efforts.

Please join me in thanking the farm families. Profiles of the 2013 honorees and information on the recognition event can be found on the University's farm family website.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear colleagues,

Our colleagues who retire remain a vital part of Extension long after their retirement party is over and they move on to new adventures. Retirees can be strong advocates, partners, volunteers and donors. Some even return to work with us on specific projects that require their expertise and relationships.

Today, we have nearly 400 retirees in active communication with Extension. In addition to a newsletter for retirees that provides updates on retired colleagues and Extension programs, we have a Facebook page for Extension retirees. There are 58 active retirees keeping in touch on Facebook and we are working to get more involved with social media.

Each year, we host a summer luncheon for retirees in the Twin Cities. This year we added one in northern Minnesota. In June, I met with 25 retirees in Detroit Lakes, including colleagues I worked with when I first came to Extension as an agronomist and weed scientist. I look forward to our Twin Cities luncheon next week, where 65 of our former colleagues are already registered to attend.

We know that Extension retirees are also generous donors and supporters of Extension research and education. We have increased our outreach to retirees through the work of Jane Johnson, Extension's chief development officer. The development team now also includes two part-time major gift officers, Jayne Hager Dee and Nancy Frosaker, both former Extension regional directors. Jayne works with Extension retirees who live in Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities area. Nancy concentrates her efforts on the Emerging Leadership Program of Northwest Minnesota as well as establishing a county 4-H endowment.

Extension is filled with employees who are working to make a difference with the people, programs and places they are passionate about. It is rewarding to see that passion continue after colleagues leave Extension.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this week, more than 140 friends of 4-H and Extension enjoyed a beautiful June day of golfing, volunteering and fundraising at the annual Minnesota 4-H Foundation golf tournament. A special focus of this year's tournament was raising support for the Helping Hands Grant program which gives grants to 4-H youth for community service projects.

The golf tournament is just one of many ways Extension and the Minnesota 4-H Foundation cultivate friends and donors who support Extension's positive impact across Minnesota. Our development leaders, Cara Miller and Jane Johnson, have been working closely with Extension staff to identify and build relationships with potential donors. They've been successful in securing a variety of gifts that support Extension programs in leadership, 4-H, the science of agriculture and natural resources.

While Extension is fairly new in building our culture of philanthropy, we have tremendous advantages. Fund development is ultimately about building and cultivating relationships. Research shows that successful fundraising organizations share Extension's view of the community as a partner in their work; they invite others into the process and value what they learn from them. We know that people give because they want to solve a problem, make a difference or improve their community. Extension provides donors with an opportunity to have a positive impact on an issue, program or part of the state that matters most to them.

It's surprising to learn that the biggest reason people do not donate is because they are not asked. Connecting program participants, community partners and other Extension 'enthusiasts' with opportunities to contribute is an important part of our collective responsibilities in Extension.  Next week, I'll be visiting with Extension retirees in Northwest Minnesota, and participating in a celebration announcing a new 4-H Endowment for Norman County, as well as connecting with key prospects. Every place I travel throughout the state, I see the many ways Extension programs inspire donors to give.

As you see fund development opportunities and ways to connect potential donors and partners with our research and education, please contact Jane or Cara. They will help you plan and coordinate strategies to develop donors and contributions to support Extension and 4-H.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Extension's academic promotion process was established in 2006 to support and recognize educators for their achievement in six categories: scholarship, education and teaching, program leadership, engagement, program management, and service.

I am pleased to announce that 22 Extension staff recently completed the process to achieve the following:

Promoted from assistant Extension educator to associate Extension educator: Laura Kieser and Randy Pepin.

Promoted from assistant Extension professor to associate Extension professor: John Bennett, Barbara Radke, Jim Paulson, Karen Terry, Connie Burns, Mary Caskey, Betsy Johnson, Kelly Kunkel and DeeAnn Leines.

Promoted from associate Extension professor to full Extension professor: Karl Foord, Doug Holen and Amy Rager.

Reconfirmed rank of associate Extension professor: Debra Botzek-Linn and Jill May.

Reconfirmed rank of Extension professor: Mike Leopold, Lisa Behnken, Gary Hachfeld, Chuck Schwartau, Gary Wyatt and Cindy Peterson.

Promotion is a professional indicator of personal and organizational success. Extension's promotion process reinforces the importance of our Extension education model and our responsibility to develop and deliver effective research-based educational programming.

I want to thank all those involved in this year's academic review process -- the applicants, supervisors, review committee members, peer reviewers, mentors, program team members and administrative staff.

The application process for the 2014 promotion cycle will begin soon. If you are considering applying for academic promotion, please discuss with your supervisor and submit your letter of intent by August 19.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

This week I had an opportunity to see two exciting examples of Extension's work with University undergraduate and graduate students. The first was a 4-H aquatic remote operated vehicle (ROV), created with students and faculty from the U's department of electrical and computer engineering. The second was a capstone project by Humphrey Institute graduate students to assist Extension in responding to increasingly diverse and interdependent domestic and global needs.

4-H's aquatic robotics program includes more than 4,000 4-H youth who learn how to build ROVs and use them for water testing and other projects. 4-H needed an ROV that could withstand currents and dive deeper. Extension faculty worked with the student and faculty engineers to develop the new ROV prototype. The next step is for the engineering and Extension faculty and students to make the 200-pound prototype lighter and more accessible so it can be built and used by 4-H youth.

Several graduate students from the U's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs completed their Capstone projects with Extension. They developed tools and resources that will assist Extension staff in incorporating global dynamics and cultural knowledge in Extension programs. You will be hearing more about those resources from Renee Pardello and Dick Senese in the coming months.

These are just two examples of the valuable ways Extension can engage University students and faculty from colleges we have not worked with in the past. In the process, we expose students to Extension who may never have considered Extension as a future career choice, they gain experience working in communities, and we benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

I look forward to seeing more examples of Extension's engagement with U undergraduate and graduate students.

Bev Durgan
Dean

 

Dear Colleagues,

Last week I had two opportunities to see Extension from both the national level and the local level. Both perspectives reinforced that we have much to be proud of in Minnesota.

During the annual Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) conference held April 22-24 in Washington, D.C., Minnesota was well represented. Rebecca Hagen Jokela, Extension educator in family resource management received the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) Excellence in Teamwork award for the "Intergenerational Land Transfer Class," and presented a snapshot of the award-winning program. Conference speakers also included Extension Economist Laura Kalambokidis presenting "You Can Understand and Effectively Communicate the Public Value of Cooperative Extension," and Extension Climatologist Mark Seeley presenting "Minnesota's Climate Adaptation Program: Addressing Climate Literacy and Advancing Adaptive Planning."   

Several Extension staff attended the conference and visited the offices of Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Keith Ellison, John Kline, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz to advocate for Extension by telling their stories about how Extension is addressing current issues and challenges in their Minnesota districts. The Extension delegates included Jennifer Garbow, Extension educator in family resource management; Ellie McCann, Extension educator in families in transition; Ryan Pesch, Extension educator in community economics; Betsy Wieland, Extension educator in ag production systems; Tracy Ignaszewski, 4-H program coordinator; Andrea Lorek Strauss, Extension educator in environmental science education; Kathy Olson, coordinator for planning for school success; David Benson, CARET delegate; Sarah Greening, chief of staff; and Gwen Gmeinder, government relations associate.   

I returned from Washington to attend the Extension Staff Conference, where nearly 300 of our local and regional staff gathered to build skills, learn more about Extension and share their great stories.

I had the pleasure of presenting the Distinguished Dean's Staff awards to four staff who help Extension make a difference in Minnesota. We are very proud to have such dedicated and excellent staff within Extension! I encourage you to congratulate them for all their efforts.

  • Campus Support Staff - Amy Shaffer, executive office and administrative specialist, St. Paul
  • Field Support Staff - Maryann Woeste, office manager, Todd County
  • Community Nutrition Educator - Tammie Malwitz, Pennington County
  • Program Staff - Amanda Swenson, 4-H program coordinator, Isanti County

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Last November, I wrote to you about an Extension-wide priority and commitment to update our website. Extension has more than 22,000 web pages in 200 program and topic websites. While some of our content is current and relevant, we have content and pages that are outdated, abandoned, not presented well for the web, or not branded to Extension and the University.

Over the last three months, we have been working across all of the centers to ensure that our website meets basic standards:

  • Content is current
  • Information is presented in formats that are appropriate for the web
  • Users experience consistent navigation and branding on every part of the website

This is a significant effort for Extension and one that I expect all of Extension to make a priority. After this initial phase of cleaning up our existing web content, we will begin preparing two major phases:

  • Creating centralized pages and tools to support our web presence. Examples include implementing a content management system, rebuilding county web pages and developing a calendar system.
  • Developing consistent expectations and support for program faculty and staff to develop and manage web appropriate content on the Extension website.

Extension's website is one of the most visible ways we present our education, information and brand to our audiences. Centrally, we are responsible for ensuring that we have the right tools and resources in place to run a system-wide website. At the center and program level, faculty and staff need to have ownership and responsibility for the information we present on our website.

I have made this a priority and we will track the progress of this at our monthly dean's leadership meetings. We will also report on our progress in future issues of e-news.

I ask for your attention to this when you are asked to work with your web team.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

It seems that budgets are on everyone's minds these days. Extension faculty, staff and partners continue to express concern about the status of Extension's federal, state and grant funds. I have been in budget discussions at both the state and federal level, and I would like to provide you with an update on Extension's budget and financial situation.

On March 2, Extension had its Compact meeting with Provost Hanson during which we discussed our priorities and budget. We will hear the outcome of our University budget requests in May. In April, Extension center associate deans and administrative unit directors will prepare and submit their fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget requests to me. In early May, I will review the requests with Extension leaders and finalize the FY 2014 budget in June.  

We are preparing for reductions in Extension's federal funding. As you are aware, we received a reduction in federal funding for our nutrition programs. As a result of continued budget reductions at the federal level, we will be receiving at least a 7.9-percent reduction in our federal capacity funding (Smith Lever and other funds). Extension will also need to provide funding for salary increases as announced by President Kaler. Together, these will total an additional $3.5 million in costs for FY 2014.

Our current funding plan is to cover these costs from Extension's reserves. By covering these costs from reserves, Extension will not have to cut positions or programs in order to cover these additional costs in FY 2014. Thanks to our collective wise stewardship of public and private funding, Extension currently has the reserves available to cover these expenses. However, we will need to continue to diversify our funding sources and continue our efforts to obtain grants, gifts and fees to offer high quality programs that meet the needs of Minnesota.

We will continue to be wise stewards of our public and private funds, ensuring that Extension education and research provide the greatest positive impact across the state.

Thank you for all your efforts.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

In 2012, Extension initiated a process to identify key issues affecting the quality of life in Minnesota and Extension's role in providing solutions to these issues. Through the engagement of faculty, staff and citizen advisory committee members, Extension identified three priority issues: community food systems, bridging the educational achievement gap, and clean energy. From our discussions, it is clear that each of these issues represents a complex challenge with multiple stakeholders. It is also clear that Extension already has work in progress in each of these areas.

I am now pleased to announce the leadership teams for these areas:

Bridging the Educational Achievement Gap - Cathy Jordan and Jennifer Skuza
Clean Energy - Kathy Draeger and Brent Hales
Community Food Systems - Ben Anderson, Ryan Pesch, Greg Schweser and Katherine Waters

I have asked each of these teams to work with Senior Associate Dean Dick Senese to identify and report on the existing work being done by Extension in these areas, with a focus on the value that our research and educational efforts create for Minnesota.

As I have said in the past, these issue areas are not intended to compete with current Extension program priorities. I have asked these teams to consider how our work could be better coordinated across Extension and to identify how additional efforts could add value to helping Minnesota address these areas.

These are important areas and provide yet another opportunity for Extension to demonstrate that we can have a significant impact through our research and educational programs. Thanks to all of you who provided input into identifying and developing the next steps for Extension's work across the three issue areas.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

On April 25, Extension will host the annual staff conference for all Extension civil service and bargaining unit staff in the following categories: clerical/technical, civil service, community nutrition educators, 4-H program coordinators, Master Gardener coordinators, community program specialists, community program assistants and county support staff. This event brings together more than 150 Extension staff colleagues to be invigorated by learning new skills and interacting with colleagues from across the state.

The conference will be held at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. I encourage all eligible staff to attend, and I have asked all supervisors to work with staff in making arrangements for travel and time away from the office.  

During staff day, I am pleased to present the annual awards for Campus and Field-Based Support Staff, Program Staff and Community Nutrition Educator. Please submit your nominations for these awards by April 1.

In addition to the staff conference, 4-H program coordinators and regional and county staff will be attending one of five regional meetings with the Extension Center for Youth Development from April 30 to May 8. I appreciate  their efforts to attend both of these important events.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

The 2013 Minnesota legislative session began on January 8 with 42 newly elected House of Representatives members and 23 newly elected Senators. President Kaler and the University community are working hard to gain support for the University's biennial budget request. I encourage you to read the U website for more information and to contact your legislators to express your support for the University.

Last week, Dean Al Levine and I had the opportunity to present an overview of Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) to the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The hearing provided the opportunity to educate legislators on how Extension and CFANS serve Minnesota and the agriculture community. Using examples from the latest issue of Source, as well as other program examples, I testified on how Extension improves Minnesotans' quality of life through its statewide educational programs and explained how Extension disseminates the University's research to citizens to help solve Minnesota's challenges.

It is important that all Extension staff continue to support and advocate for Extension and the University. To help us maintain a collective advocacy effort within Extension, please follow our government relations guidelines:

  • If you have been formally invited to testify at a legislative hearing, you need prior approval. Send the following information to Sarah Greening: committee, agenda topic, date and time
  • If you meet with legislators or staffers, please complete the form. The form is automatically routed to Gwen Gmeinder for inclusion in the Extension legislative database.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear colleagues,

The Winter 2013 issue of Source magazine is hot off the press and en route to campus, regional and county offices. Source is also available online and many of the stories about Extension's impact across the state will be featured on both the Extension and the University home pages, as well as shared through social media, in person, and via email over the next few months.

This issue of Source highlights the many ways Extension is creating a stronger Minnesota through education and research, including University President Eric Kaler's thoughts about what he has seen of Extension as he's traveled around the state. Discover how Extension reaches more farmers by educating the agricultural professionals who influence them. Read how Extension's 4-H prepares youth to lead and succeed through its unique learning model. Learn how Extension is helping to fill a leadership gap in rural Minnesota communities.

This issue also features Extension's work in growing healthier foods through research and education on high tunnels and phytonutrients; response to needs expressed by the Fond du Lac community to better manage their natural resources; curriculum that helps families adjust to changing economic conditions; and a new edition of a book on ornamental grasses that is based on 25 years of research.

Please feel free to use the printer-friendly versions of the stories available on the Extension website. Copies of these stories are helpful to include in your program marketing materials and discussions with partners and customers.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

In early January, the House, Senate and President Obama passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 to avert the fiscal cliff. The legislation has significant implications for SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education) in Minnesota and nationwide.

The legislation calls for a 28% reduction in federal funding for SNAP-Ed in FY 2013. This is a significant and unexpected cut. Because of the importance of this program to low-income Minnesotans, we will make short-term financial reallocations within Extension to prevent immediate cuts in the program. While this is not a long-term solution, it creates time for us to work with our federal legislators to try to get funding restored for FY 2014 and to work with other potential funders and partners.

Yesterday, Minnesota Public Radio ran a story on SNAP-Ed and the funding announcement. If you didn't hear it, you can listen, read an article and see photos on the MPR website.  

As reported in the news story, community nutrition educators (CNEs) are funded through the federal SNAP-Ed grant that comes from USDA through the Minnesota Department of Human Services to Extension. The nutrition program is delivered in partnership with Minnesota counties, providing county offices and support for Extension's CNEs.

This program reaches underserved audiences across Minnesota with important health and nutrition information. Last year, over 30% of participants in our SNAP-Ed childhood obesity programs were from communities of color. Across our general nutrition education workshops, classes and hands-on demonstrations, over 60% of participants report changing their diet to be more healthy. And, more than three-quarters of graduates of one of our key learn-to-cook-at-home programs reported eating more vegetables and fruits, and all of them reported making a recipe they learned in the program at home.

We will be working closely with our partners over the coming months to address this funding reduction so that we can continue to offer this important program throughout Minnesota.

Bev Durgan
Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year!

As we return from our holiday break, many of us are focused on the federal and state legislatures. This will be an important year for the University and Extension. State and federal funding make up over half of Extension's budget, as well as impacting Minnesota counties, which fund another 20 percent of Extension's budget.

As always, there are two important things you can do to ensure support for Extension. The first is your work, ensuring that Extension's education and research make a positive, measurable difference in Minnesota. The second is communication, telling legislators and stakeholders about the positive impacts that result from their investment in Extension.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to review the University's website outlining the biennial budget request. Each one of us can play an important role in communicating the importance of the University and its budget request.

Bev Durgan
Dean