ISU Extension and Outreach Plan Addresses Diversity and Inclusion

July 11, 2016, 1:53 pm | Ross Wilburn

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Community and Economic Development team often serves as facilitators to community, organizational, and business planning and engagement efforts.

Back in January 2016, however, representatives of the CED team found themselves in the role of participants to develop a diversity and inclusion strategic plan to guide ISU Extension and Outreach’s work in building a strong Iowa. The 40-participant strategic-planning team included representatives from across ISU Extension and Outreach’s programming and throughout the state, including three elected representatives from the Iowa Association of County Extension Councils.

Iowa’s changing demographics and how ISU Extension and Outreach’s work affects communities have been high priorities for professional development in recent years.

Diversity and Inclusion Plan

Within this context, the strategic-planning team explored the question: “What can we do to embody diversity and inclusion in ISU Extension and Outreach’s programs, practices and people over the next three years?”

In a recent blog post, ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach Cathann Kress highlighted our “commitment to excellence, access, community and engagement” as a hallmark of ISU Extension and Outreach’s ability to help build a strong Iowa. This new strategic plan will help ISU Extension and Outreach find a practical, common picture of these desired outcomes and discover substantial actions required to take the direction needed to achieve these goals.

The planning session resulted in four strategic directions through which ISU Extension and Outreach will focus its creative, practical actions: embedding diversity and inclusion into the organization’s culture, modeling and marketing diversity and inclusion, leveling the field to recruit and hire, and linking the organization’s values and resources.

"It was a tremendously positive experience that provided an opportunity for colleagues from across ISU Extension and Outreach to come together,” said Carol Heaverlo, director of professional development and a member of the strategic planning team. “In a very creative and collaborative way (we were able to) reflect, discuss, and plan how we, as an organization, operationalize our vision of ensuring inclusivity both internally and externally.

“The four strategic directions that emerged as a result established a road map so that our efforts are accomplished in a coordinated, collective and integrated way. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and collaborating to support ongoing learning opportunities that align with these goals,” she added.

One tangible outcome already from the plan’s implementation steps is ISU Extension and Outreach’s adoption of Navigating Difference© cultural competency training. The training was developed by Washington State University Extension to support that university’s goal to be inclusive in all aspects of the institution.

Sixteen ISU Extension and Outreach employees who had gone through Navigating Difference© training, six of whom are part of ISU Extension and Outreach’s CED unit, volunteered to become certified to teach the course.

Although the primary intent is to provide Navigating Difference© as professional development for ISU Extension and Outreach employees, the training is available for a fee to outside entities interested in making the commitment to their organizations/communities in working more effectively across differences.

Groups or communities interested in the training can contact Ross Wilburn at 515-294-1482 or, or Carol Heaverlo at 515-294-8876 or

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