Rebecca NoranJob title:
Assistant Director and Communications Manager
University of Minnesota Extension Center for Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (EFANS)Which means:
I have ideas and I make them happen. Somehow, this involves attending many meetings and chairing many committees. But more importantly it involves the work of many talented people. My role is part administrator for our center, reporting to the associate dean and managing different center initiatives and operations, and part communications manager, with oversight for our web presence, internal communications, telling our story, and other communications efforts... and supervising a great team.I have been at the University since:
Jan. 2, 2001Areas of expertise:
design, proofreading, Minnesota Extension's response to emerald ash borer, First Avenue & 7th St. Entry nightclub, Twin Cities public bathrooms, Shellac concerts, famous people from my hometown of Montclair, NJ, lines from the movies Heathers, The Muppet Movie, and The Big LebowskiWhy are you a Forum member?
Because we need an outlet like this. I have served on the promotion and awards committees, designed materials for the conference, and attended many events over the years -- it is great to have this positive space for University communicators to learn from and connect with each other. I look forward to the conference every year, to see all you smart, talented communicators!Family members:
husband: Jon Dehning (also works at the U, from Decorah, Iowa), parents: Jim and Susan (NJ), siblings: Jason (NJ), Rachel and husband Zak and their sons Ben and Henry (Virginia) -- the rest of them, they are all over the country!Hobbies:
Boggle, doodling, walking, traveling/exploring, talking to strangers, finding colors that go with maroon and goldCurrent favorites:
Recent discovery of DVR, making up step aerobics moves at the uptown YWCA, my share at Spring Hill Community Farm, fancy olive oil, is the MFA still the new MBA?I am passionate about:
A good sandwichPeople are always surprised to learn that I:
was born on HalloweenWhy my job matters to my unit and to the University:
Extension is a critical part of the University's land-grant mission -- our job is to make a difference by connecting community needs and University resources to address critical issues in Minnesota. We are a trustworthy source of information for citizens, delivering research-based education that is practical and useful... and hopefully enjoyable!
In my center's content areas, our job is to help people make informed decisions involving topics that impact Minnesota's environment and economy -- such as water quality, food safety, renewable energy, climate and weather, feeding a growing population, invasive species, yard and garden, housing technology, nature-engaged families, woodlands management, pesticide safety, and many more important societal issues.
My administrative role is to further this important work by developing and managing administrative efforts that support effective and efficient programming -- such as bridging collaboration between our Extension educators and tenured/tenure-track faculty in CFANS, aiding our interdisciplinary programming efforts, streamlining our processes, so that our educators and researchers can focus on their programming.
Extension is an externally focused unit, and communications plays a key role in our success. As the communications manager for EFANS, I bring professional communications expertise and experience, providing consultations on communications strategy and practices to our employees. My job is to raise the bar on our communications, and to help our employees find the best method to reach their audience and achieve their goals, pushing them to think differently when appropriate -- to innovate not just in extreme ways but everyday ways. I help my colleagues in Extension to do this by overseeing aspects of projects like a large-scale redesign of our web presence (bringing our 50+ websites into one website), creating professional quality templates for staff to use with a consistent University identity, partnering with programs on educational materials and decision-making tools across media and delivery methods.
Our employees are located throughout the state, so our internal communications work is key, and includes a quarterly webinar where we feature different successes of our program teams from which others can learn. Telling the story of Extension's impact is important for our continued funding at the federal, state and local levels; as communicators we package our stories in a memorable way, following leads to generate the content and images that will resonate with our stakeholders and convey the impact of our work.
As a well-rounded communicator I know things like what makes type more or less legible, how to spec jobs for printers, how to find the right online tool for just about anything, what are the trends in usability, what makes good B-roll, where you should put your commas if you follow Chicago or AP style.
But the greatest value I bring to my unit and the U is not written into my job description. It is a role most communicators and design thinkers do well: Catalyst. To ask questions and try new approaches. To embrace change. To think about the people who will use what I create and to learn from them. To foster community. To set the bar high for professional quality communications. To make things happen, and to take an iterative approach to getting things done -- so that they really get done. To have a sense of humor and bring energy to the conversation. To explore the ideas that may seem weird but may be just the answer. To not be afraid to try. This is what helps push our work forward as a university.