Monday Update: Education or Advocacy: A Mad Lib Definition, University Award Recipients

May 8, 2023

Education or Advocacy: A Mad Lib Definition

A common question I have been asked over time and more recently is: What is the difference between education and advocacy? I believe the answer lies in the first paragraph of the Extension Professional’s Creed and “in their right to make their own plans and arrive at their own decisions.” 

I believe in people and their hopes, their aspirations, and their faith; in their right to make their own plans and arrive at their own decisions; in their ability and power to enlarge their lives and plan for the happiness of those they love.

As extension professionals and as educational professionals, I believe our role is to provide people with the best resources, knowledge, tools, and insights to help them make better decisions for their families, their farms, their businesses, their communities, etc. Sometimes, when extension helps with practical applications or policy prescriptions, people push back with, “Are you advocating or educating?” Others ask, “When does education turn into advocacy?”

I could write a whole thesis on the difference, and there have probably been numerous dissertations and theses written on this subject. As a rule of thumb, I use a Mad Lib test. When I was a kid on those vacation road trips, I would sometimes do Mad Libs — no cell phones to occupy my time. For those of you who have not experienced the joy of a Mad Lib, it is an activity where you choose words from various parts of speech to fill in the gaps in a piece of writing. Depending on the words you choose, you can create some funny stories. 

For me, the Mad Lib between extension and advocacy is the choice between “could” or “should.” For example:

You ________ apply this fertilizer this week.

You ________ eat these vegetables to improve your health.

You ________ build this road to improve traffic flow.

You ________ use this game to teach youth new computer skills.

How are we presenting our applied research findings and research or evidence-based education? Are we sharing potential practical applications or policy prescriptions about what people could do and allowing people to make their own plans? Or are we sharing potential solutions or policy prescriptions regarding what people should do and not allowing people to make their own plans?

When people ask you about education or advocacy, or if you are wrestling with that question yourself, could a Mad Lib help you find the answer?

Today’s Q&A

Questions submitted during March 2023 Annual Conference

What experience do you have with urban extension that you plan to bring with you to Iowa?

Urban agriculture and food systems are one of seven national initiatives for the Extension Committee on Policy (ECOP), making it a key priority. In Iowa, roughly two-thirds of the population lives in an urban area. As an institution that strives to make Iowa strong and improve the lives of all Iowans, our reach into urban areas is just as crucial as our reach into rural Iowa. Although the size, scale, and structure of agriculture and food systems will vary by geography, I believe it is important to teach all Iowans how food is grown, how safe and healthy food is, how to handle food safely as it moves from farm to table, how agriculture preserves and protects our environment, and how agriculture and food systems can be a source of new businesses, new jobs, and new wealth. The Diversified Food and Farming Systems initiative, which included urban agriculture, started during my tenure at Purdue Extension. I was proud of its growth and transitions. Over the past month, I have been excited to learn about similar activities at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and am excited about future growth in this area.

Jason Henderson
Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Congratulations, university award recipients

From Inside Iowa State

Congratulations to the ISU Extension and Outreach staff members who received university awards for 2023. These individuals and teams will be honored at a community celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 20 on campus.

  • Morrill Professor – Kimberly Greder, professor, human development and family studies.
  • Interdisciplinary Team Research Award – Gary Taylor, professor, community and regional planning; Himar Hernandez, assistant program director, community and economic development; and Mary Weinand, community development specialist, community and economic development.
  • Professional and Scientific Excellence Award – Patrick Wall, beef specialist, ag and natural resources.
  • R.K. Bliss Award – Rich Wrage, regional director (Region 14).
  • Award for Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach – Russ Euken, livestock specialist, ag and natural resources.
  • Award for Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice – Beth Reynolds, state specialist, Iowa Beef Center.

Extension Information Technology staff members earn national honors

From Michael Mauton, Director, Extension Information Technology

The National Extension Technology Community held its annual conference April 24-27 and recognized three ISU Extension and Outreach staff members for their outstanding work. Congratulations to all.

  • Kristi Elmore, Alex Brent, and Brian Webster won the Innovation Award for their work on the new county websites. This was a multi-year project from initial discussions about the project through implementation, testing, and final completion. This award was one of just three national awards NETC presents each year.
  • Brian Webster was also named one of 11 inaugural Hall of Fame inductees. Brian is a founding member of NETC and has helped the organization grow over the past 30 years. He was integral to Iowa State hosting the annual conference in 2009 and is a former board president.

Extension's network drive is moving on Friday, May 12

From Steven Spencer, Information Technology Specialist, Extension Information Technology

The ISU Extension and Outreach network drive move, previously scheduled in April, will now occur on Friday, May 12. Please plan for the drive (also known as the "R: drive" or "S: drive") to be unavailable from 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, until Monday, May 15 at 8:00 a.m. If this move affects you, please see the email from Extension Information Technology for guidance.