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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cultivating a Climate of Civil Dialogue at PILD 2018

By Suzanne Driessen

April 26, 2018

As the ESP Pi Chapter President, I was our delegate at the 2018 Public Institute Leadership Conference (PILD), April 8-12, 2018, Hyatt Regency, Arlington, VA.

This year the theme, Cultivating a Climate of Civil Dialogue, focused on becoming involved in civil engagement in policy and advocacy. The agenda was filled with speakers on restoring our democracy, rediscovering humanity in an increasingly polarized world and communicating Extension’s value to stakeholders and partners.

Staffers from the house and senate prepped us for our hill visits. They advised us to:

  • Make the visit memorable for the staffer or legislator. 
  • Don’t be partisan.
  • Your ask should include who, what, why.
  • Tell a story about the issue and its impact on your community. 

The national 4-H youth conference was held in D.C. at the same time allowing five 4-H members to join our group and meet with MN Congressional Offices. Representative Nolan and Congressman Peterson were personally at the legislative visit.

Our capstone speaker, John Nolter, a fellow Minnesotan, joined us on our hill visits. John is a freelance photographer. He travels around our nation and the globe. He interviews people about the meaning of peace. Check out his website here.

John shared six lessons he discovered through his peace project work to create common good and civil dialogue:

  1.  Listen to difficult realities—let go of your crazy.
  2. Look for solutions—what is a liability, change to an asset.
  3. Stay at the table. 
  4. Stay true to your values.
  5. Try again.
  6. Forgive. 

John set-up shop at PILD. He asked attendees, How have you cultivated civil dialogue in the past year? Fifty-five attendees participated, including four from our Minnesota delegation. Check out the video here. Password is: JCEP.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Reflections from 2018 JCEP Leadership Conference

By Kelly Kunkel 

February 23, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) Leadership Conference on February 14-15, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. The theme for the event was, “Balancing Tradition with Innovation.  Below I highlight key learning and takeaways from speakers presenting at the conference.

  • University of Florida Extension Director Nick Place asked the question, "What are the vexing issues right now?" He talked about Florida’s concern around water, a growing population, and one new pest or plant disease discovered each month. He challenged us to create the biggest impacts with our programming. 

  • Chuck Hibberd, Dean and Director of Extension at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provided an Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) report. His message on advocacy centered around five key messages: 1) Science is action (better to state science than research); 2)National reach with meaningful local impact; 3). Proactive responsiveness (disasters, threats, etc.); 4) Expand core programs such as 4-H; and 5) Provide value for federal partners as the outreach engagement arm of the federal government. 

  • Bill Hoffman from NIFA shared that we should report on how our programming influences lives, and share the public value of our programming with others.

  • Keynote speaker, David Michell, founded of the Leadership difference. He implemented a personality profile tool called, the Power of Understanding People. People fall into the personality preference of expert, romantic, mastermind or warrior. He was entertaining and thought provoking, providing a new way to understand and communicate with people based on our preferences.

  • A panel discussion and virtual town hall meeting discussed Extension response to emerging issues. Interesting to note that some of the issues discussed, such as climate change, water, diabetes, or opioid addiction, are not emerging. Rather, they are current concerning issues. We should be looking ahead to  future, and get in front of this issue instead of being reactive. When we look to innovation, how are we measuring success in our work? What are our metrics? If we evaluate Extension work using old tools, we have little time or energy to be innovative. We need to remember to consider the process as a product, focus on systemic change (which takes time) and explore new methods of engagement.

  • As Minnesota’s president-elect and delegate for NEAFCS, it was beneficial to me to have association meetings on both days of the conference. We discussed member benefits, voting delegates and using social media. Interesting to note that 60% of our membership will be eligible to retire in 10 years. How will that change our association? We took time to share thoughts about membership.

Thank you for your scholarship to attend this conference. The time to learn about immerging issues in Extension, network and meet Extension professionals from across the nation, and think deeper about innovation made this conference meaningful.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Legislative Update

By Gwen Gmeinder, ESP Legislative Chair
Government Relations Associate, St. Paul Campus

Minnesota State Legislative Status

In January of the even number calendar years, the governor is required by statute to submit a list of capital infrastructure recommendations to the legislature for consideration in the upcoming legislative session. These recommended capital projects reflect infrastructure needs across the state, from state agencies to local governments to higher education facilities. 

The University of Minnesota’s request to the MN State Legislature is summarized here.
Governor Dayton recommendation is for full funding of the University’s capital request. The 2018 bonding request is among the largest in the past five years and the Governor proposes full funding for the University’s request, plus an additional $60 million.

On February 22, President Kaler hosts a legislative briefing to layout more details of the University’s proposal.  Extension administration, government relations staff and 18 Citizens Advisory Committee members will be attending. 

The 2018 Legislature is scheduled to begin at noon, Feb. 20, 2018. Legislators must adjourn by May 21, 2018.

Federal Legislative Status

Extension and CFANS deans and CARET (Consult for Agriculture Research Extension & Teaching) delegates will be on the Hill, March 6 to  meet with all congressional offices and senators to discuss federal funding for agricultural research and teaching. 

2018 Public Institute Leadership Development (PILD) UMN Extension Delegates

April 8-11, 2018 - PILD Conference at The Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia
  • ANREP:  Diomy Zamora
  • ESP:  Suzanne Driessen
  • MACLEP:  Brian Fredrickson
  • MAEAP:  Diane Dewitt & Emily Wilmes 
  • MAE4-HYD:  Karen Beranek
  • NEAFCS - Sharon Powell
  • Administration - Dean Durgan, Brent Hales, Sarah Greening & Gwen Gmeinder

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Nathan Winter Visits Kenya

By Nathan Winter 
January 11, 2018

A Catholic priest from Kisii, Kenya visited Minnesota in the summer of 2017. His visit was a part of a mission to encourage efforts to support a village near the city of Kisii, Kenya. Damaris, who moved from Kenya to Minnesota, invited him. Damaris, along with her siblings and mother, had been working closely with the Berquist Foundation to help the village out financially. Through this work, the connection was made with the priest.

The priest found out I worked in agriculture for the University of Minnesota Extension and suggested I visit Kenya. At the time, I laughed off the idea of traveling to Kenya since it would be well out of my comfort zone.

Butch and Karen, a retired farm couple from Hutchinson, were planning to travel to Kenya with Damaris in November of 2017. Butch and Karen convinced their daughter, Anissa, to go along. They asked if I wanted to go as well. I thought about this idea for a while and told them I would see if there was any Extension related work in Kenya. I visited with John Vreyens, Extension Director of Global Initiatives. He said the University of Minnesota Extension had a partnership with Kisii University. Extension faculty have traveled to Kenya to educate women farmers. Because of these connections, there was support for me to visit Kisii University.

Knowledge Exchange

I visited Kisii University a number of times and the reception was welcoming. I toured the campus and a government research farm. I was the featured speaker at a forum one afternoon. My talk highlighted Minnesota Agriculture and Extension’s role in agriculture research and education. The room had around 20 people in the seats at the beginning and by the end, the room was overflowing with 60 people. I might have been trending on social media because all of the students wanted to take a picture with me after the presentation.

I also had the opportunity to see the how Books for Africa (St. Paul, Minnesota) benefit students in Kenya.

Sharing and Learning in the Village

Our Minnesota delegation shared our talents and learned the culture of the villagers in Kisii. One day, we fetched water with the women of the village. We experienced how far they had to walk to get their daily water supply.
Anissa is a physician’s assistant and spent much of her time visiting with people about their health and taking vitals. Karen helped get the sewing center set up. She was the main person communicating with the Kenya delegation regarding planning.

Butch and I helped build shelves for the village library. I called our shelf making an art project. There was not a straight or consistently sized piece of lumber to work with and the lumber was extremely wet.

My other time in the village was spent educating about business plans for the village owned posho mill (corn milling machine), the sewing center, phone charging stations, and a potential well construction.


This trip to Kenya was an enlightening experience both personal and professionally. I learned a lot about the culture of the villagers. I saw where the country is currently at in development. Technologies exist but the infrastructure to make them efficient doesn’t’. As I taught students at the Kisii University, built shelves for the library and educating on business plans, I used my Extension skills to deliver practical solutions by engaging Kenyans to build a better future. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

MEWS funds helps life member attend conference to advance skills as a financial counselor

by: Phyllis Onstad, Retiree and ESP Life Member

Conference attended:  Association of Financial Counseling Planning and Education (AFCPE) Symposium, San Diego, CA  November 15-17, 2017

As a retiree, I find the ability to continue to apply for a MEWS Scholarship a true value added component of life membership. Thank you MN ESP! The funds awarded help me to continue to grow in my professional life and allows me the opportunity to continue the work that I do in retirement with military members and their families.  This work requires that I receive personal finance continuing education units to maintain my Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation.

In particular, these diverse sessions provided me added knowledge, understanding and tools to utilize in my work and in my life: Behavioral Biases of Clients, Bridging the Gap from Military Financial Education to Military Financial Readiness, Someday Syndrome (Behavioral finance is a new field which blends traditional behavior psychological theory with finance and economics.), Current Vital Trends Impacting Personal Finance, Closing the Racial and Gender Wealth Gap, Effective Teaching through Story Telling, and the best session---From Financial Education to Financial Inclusion: Bridging the Gap for Persons with Disabilities to Access the Economic Mainstream.  This last session was a huge awareness builder and increased my knowledge of financial education resources and tools for persons with disabilities who often must live on $750 or less a month.

Know that I will utilize this knowledge, understanding and tools and… that I greatly benefited from connecting with others throughout the nation who work with the military and financially challenged audiences. 

Conference Provided Opportunities to Learn, Present, Connect and Celebrate

Epsilon Sigma Phi - Pi Chapter
MEWS Report
Kathy Brandt, Extension Educator, Food Safety
December 21, 2017

Thank you to Epsilon Sigma Phi-Pi Chapter and the MEWS Committee for the financial support I received to attend the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) Annual Session, October 16 – 19, 2017, Omaha, Nebraska. The conference provided many professional development opportunities focused on the theme “Harvesting Opportunities in NEAFCS.”

Highlights included attending the ‘Farm to Table’ in-depth session where I learned about local entrepreneurs building businesses around locally grown food for both personal and community growth; serving as a Minnesota Affiliate voting delegate and being part of active decision making on the national level; and receiving the 1st place national food safety award along with my colleague, Suzanne Driessen. Our award was given for the Safe Food Sampling at Farmers Markets program that we developed and implemented to meet the educational need for the 2014 Minnesota safe food sampling legislation. As national award recipients, Suzanne and I presented a concurrent session to more than 75 Extension professionals. Presenting to a group of peers is always a learning and humbling experience; I always learn more than anyone attending does. This conference enriches and builds my professional network, which is benefit to the work I do and the audiences I serve.

L to R: Theresa Mayhew, Kathy Brandt, Suzanne Driessen
2017 NEAFCS Awards Ceremony

Thursday, December 28, 2017

MEWS Scholarship Helps Educator with Service Learning and Community Engagement Reasearch


International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE)

October 2, 2017
By Judith A. Conway, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development (UMECYD)

National University of Galway (NUI Galway)
Galway, Ireland
September 13-September 16, 2017

The annual International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) conference is a scholarly venue to disseminate new knowledge on service learning and community engagement. The focus of presentations, symposiums, networking, and keynotes is on research incorporating a variety of theoretical, methodologies, and perspectives.

I recently attended the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement conference held in Galway, Ireland. I am so appreciative for receiving the $500 ESP MEWS professional development scholarship award to attend. This international learning experience has broadened my perspective of the work that I do within the Extension Center for Youth Development, and in a more inclusive sense, the University of Minnesota Extension Center.
I attended many sessions, which shared Professor’s scholarship and research (Hong Kong University, Portland State, Louisiana State, and South Africa U, to name a few). I was involved in many round table discussions that allowed me to share my work within the (UMECYD) and learn from others. A few takeaways included: 1) University Professors have a social commitment to expose students to the world around them through their selected teaching methodology; 2) Mindfulness (preparation and reflection) within youth community learning environments should be given greater priority; 3) Positive 4-H adult/youth partnerships within the context of service-learning continues to be an important factor for success; 4) Growth mindset is needed with young people to expand intercultural engagement.

In Dublin, I was able to visit with local school staff to learn about schools/after school and their community engagement strategies.

The following statements reflect the impact on my Extension work.

  • This experience has allowed me to make connections to University professionals throughout the world who believe in creating an educational environment for youth to be social change agents. I have made an interesting connection with University professors who use service learning as a teaching methodology to mentor young people in after school programs. This connection will allow me to dig deeper into my scholarship in this area of my work.
  • I have exchanged information with colleagues from NUI in Galway as they expand and explore their college student mentorship opportunities. Within the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development environment, we have created many models of Youth Teaching Youth (YTY). This service-learning model is a model I hope to explore with collegiate 4-H alumni as a meaningful part of their academic field of study. 
  • Explore youth college readiness within the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development framework. I attended a round table, which discussed community perspectives of Community-University partnerships (from United States). Community partners shared a concern that 67% cannot find qualified workers and the dropout rate of high school students is growing at an alarming rate. One of the benchmarks to reach our vision within the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development is that 70% of youth in Minnesota 4-H will go to higher education. 
  • I plan to incorporate this experience into my teaching and research by digging deep into the psychology of youth as social change agents. I plan to explore and share how mindfulness, understanding of self, and the ethics of service enter into the complexity of positive youth development programming as youth learn about themselves, learn to lead and navigate the world around them. 

The opportunity to apply for MEWS scholarships offered by Epsilon Sigma Phi is an opportunity afforded by anyone who joins this fraternal organization. I thank the selection committee for granting me this meaningful scholarship to advance my research.

Additional information can be requested from Judith A. Conway,

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