Monday Update: Budget info, transforming our organization

August 3, 2020

Message from Debra Sellers, on behalf of the Office of the Vice President

Today’s message includes a budget update, a check-in as we transform our organization, and several other notes.

Budget update

Vice President Lawrence shares the following update on the 2021 budget.

Last week the Board of Regents approved Iowa State’s fiscal year 2021 general fund operating budget, which is about $41 million less than last year’s budget. ISU Extension and Outreach’s budget is not as directly impacted by declining tuition revenue as the rest of the university, but we are not immune either. I requested a 6% cut to units for FY2021.This cut is significant, and I am hopeful that more will not be needed if we face a mid-year reversion. At this point I am not planning on layoffs or furloughs or pay reduction; there are other ways to handle this change in our funding. For example:

  • The Board of Regents approved Iowa State's Retirement Incentive Option program. Eligible Iowa State employees have until March 1, 2021, to express their interest in participating and until June 30 to retire from the university.
  • With the launching of Structured for Success and Dr. Higgins’ departure, we are realigning some leadership reporting lines, replacing the Senior Director with a Director of Operations, and reconfiguring our Advancement unit. The initial review of candidates for the Director of Operations position is underway.
  • Our COVID-19 Recovery Task Force did the groundwork to plan ISU Extension and Outreach’s role in Iowa’s recovery. Their charge included defining challenges facing Iowans and their communities that are within our capacity to address, as well as identifying key programs our organization will be known for.
  • On Friday our Virtual Education Task Force gave me their final report and the leadership team will review the recommendations. The task force examined the opportunities and challenges our organization has faced as we moved to virtual and digital education during the pandemic, and we thank them for their efforts. We will apply the lessons learned so we can better respond to Iowans’ emerging needs for accessing informal education in a post-pandemic world.

These strategic decisions and others to come will help ISU Extension and Outreach continue moving forward in challenging times.

Transforming our organization

Assistant Vice President for County Services Andrea Nelson shares the following comments.

On July 1 we officially launched our new structure to transform our organization. During the town hall we acknowledged that transformation doesn’t happen overnight. We know it doesn’t happen in only 30 days, either, but it’s a good time to assess our progress so far.

  • Counties wrote transition plans for June, July, and August. As August begins, I encourage you to review how you are doing and whether you need to revise your plan.
  • We are reopening offices to the public, reintroducing ourselves to community partners, and reconnecting with Iowans. As we work toward recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, how can ISU Extension and Outreach help communities, families, farms, businesses, and youth? Listen and engage.
  • I encourage you to review the County Services and Council Member Calendar of Trainings for opportunities related to your role and responsibilities. The calendar is updated regularly.

More notes

  • Updates to the university’s travel policy went into effect August 1. The policy updates will make it easier for faculty and staff to plan their trip expenses, find acceptable lodging and meals, create expense reports, and more clearly understand total reimbursement. The updates also will bring Iowa State in line with peers and overall industry standards. The leadership team is reviewing the updated policy and soon will provide guidance specific to ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • MyData will be featured during Second Monday Live, 10 a.m., August 10, at Phil Heckman, database coordinator, and Keli Tallman, program development and evaluation manager, will review MyData objectives, discuss overarching themes from the pilot, share the tentative rollout timeline for program units and county services, and provide an overview of MyData online training and staff expectations.
  • The date for the north central area-wide, in-person meeting is December 10. Check the Area-wide Meetings webpage to see all upcoming virtual and in-person meeting dates.
  • The Master Gardener program is taking several steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including virtual delivery and no requirement to volunteer or participate in continuing education in 2020. See the letter from Vice President Lawrence.
  • Have you or your clients received unsolicited seed through the mail? The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has released an online portal where people can report unsolicited seed deliveries. IDALS then will send a postage-paid envelope so people may submit the seed and packaging to the USDA for analysis. A banner at the top of IDALS homepage links to the portal; the direct address is

Debra M. Sellers
Associate Dean, College of Human Sciences
Director, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach