Monday Update: History and excellence

February 8, 2021

Although I’m an ag economist, I’m also a student of history – in particular, Iowa State and extension history. As I was reading about upcoming Iowa State events to celebrate Black History Month and thinking about the contributions of Black Americans at Iowa State, I found myself deep in the digital archives of George Washington Carver. I’m always interested in learning more about Carver, who was one of Iowa State’s and our country’s greatest educators, researchers, and extension professionals. Did you know? He designed the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, a mobile classroom that he used to take research and education from the university to the people. Our Conservation Station is an example of that mobile classroom still being used today.

COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards

In January I shared that Julie Naig, Alejandro Plastina, and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program received COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards from the university. This morning, during Second Monday Live, I announced the recipients of the Vice President’s COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards.

  • Excellence in Innovative Program Delivery: The 4-H Distance Learning Team developed a continuum of programs to meet the needs of youth, including On the Go lessons, Clover Crates, and the Gardening to Give program.
  • Excellence in Innovative Program Delivery: CED’s Housing and Local Government Team converted the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment program from a complex, three-part, face-to-face series into an interactive, virtual workshop experience.
  • Excellence in Remote Instruction: Sara Shonrock and Amanda Eggers converted the Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy from an in-person event to interactive virtual training with 301 participants.
  • Excellence in Remote Instruction: Warren Pierson developed a free, online webinar version of the in-person Field Crop Scouting Basics workshop. The online program had 725 registered attendees from 17 states and six countries outside of the U.S.
  • Excellence in Community Response: Melissa Loux connected with Wright County businesses, created a food pantry coalition and a human services coalition, and distributed mental health resources to local farmers
  • Excellence in Community Response: Steph Erpelding reached Sac County youth with an 11-week video series of daily weekday activities. She also partnered with the Sac City Public Library to offer STEAM activities for youth.
  • Exemplary Team or Unit Effort: The Iowa Beef Center addressed challenges facing producers and the industry, using alternative delivery methods to reach clients.
  • Exemplary Support for Staff or Colleagues: The Advancement team transitioned our 2020 annual conference from in-person to virtual. They also provided graphics, writing, editing, video, social media, event planning, training, and strategic thinking to help staff, counties, and specialists navigate the pandemic.
  • Exemplary Support for Staff or Colleagues: Brittany Demezier developed and continues to improve Dubuque County’s Facebook account and YouTube channel, enabling the county to reach more clients across these online platforms.
  • Exemplary Support for Partner Organization: Judy Dittmar took the lead in disseminating information about the Farmers to Families Food Boxes. As a result, there were at least nine distributions in eight counties that delivered more than 5,300 food boxes in southwest rural Iowa.
  • Extension Impact: David Brown, Danielle Day, and Dawn Dunnegan moved the “Question. Persuade. Refer.” program online. They have trained Iowans along with individuals from 14 states and two Canadian territories.
  • Extension Impact: Leah Feltz gained over 800 new Facebook followers for ISU Extension and Outreach, and her Facebook posts reached more than 767,000 people from March–October 2020. She also created the live series, Tips from an Expert.
  • Extension Pivot: Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca, Katelyn Brinkerhoff, Carter Oliver, and Julie Hlas converted the in-person “Safe Mushroom Foraging” program to an online format.
  • Extension Pivot: Jacqueline Comito led the Iowa Learning Farms team to develop virtual field days and increase the ILF conservation webinar series from monthly to weekly. She also led the Water Rocks team to launch new videos, in-person outdoor school presentations, and live streaming virtual presentations for youth.
  • Over the Top: Our Open for Iowa Committee translated and applied COVID-19 guidance for use throughout ISU Extension and Outreach.
  • Over the Top: Our Iowa 4-H Virtual/Alternative Fairs Task Force prepared our staff and our state for virtual and alternative 4-H county fair experiences.

Please join me in celebrating our colleagues who went above and beyond normal duties to build a strong Iowa during the pandemic. Our award recipients will be creating ignite videos about their efforts so we all can learn more about what they did and build on their success.

More notes

  • The Governor relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend, including wearing masks indoors and large gatherings, among others.  ISU Extension and Outreach still has a mask mandate until March 31 and events must be able to maintain six-foot physical distance.  Check the Open for Iowa website for guidance.
  • We welcome Jill Brimeyer as our new Advancement Communications manager. She begins the position February 10. Jill is a writer/editor and communicator with a background in marketing communications, higher education, magazine publishing, and corporate internal communications. She spent eight years as associate director of communications at Drake University. Other professional experiences include serving as a creative director at an agency, editing regional magazines, specializing in corporate internal communications, and directing community relations for a nonprofit. She holds a BA from UNI and an MA in communications leadership from Drake. Jill’s email is
  • I encourage you to register for Annual Conference by March 1 and plan to participate in the conference on March 9. You must be present to hear from our keynote speaker, Colette Carlson, who’ll discuss the power of connection and importance of work-life blend. (We are not able to record Colette’s presentation.) You also must be present to have the opportunity to win prizes throughout the conference. The conference registration fee is $20. Please take a few minutes to review the agenda and register. I look forward to our time together on March 9.
  • Due to COVID-related supply chain issues, Dell has increased the lead time on computer and accessory purchases. As a result, Extension IT has moved this year’s deadline for purchasing new computers to February 28. This deadline will ensure that your order will arrive in time for equipment setup and billing by the end of the fiscal year. Any orders placed March 1 or later are not guaranteed to be billed this fiscal year.
  • Our colleagues at K-State Research and Extension are hosting a virtual professional development opportunity and have invited extension professionals from the North Central Region to join them. The topic is “Changing Our View of Identity in a Time of Change – A Start for Agency Diversity Education” presented by Dr. Craig Rotter, executive director for the Texas Rural Leadership Program. The Zoom presentation will be Friday, February 19, 1:30– 2:30 p.m. CST. Zoom capacity for this event is limited; if you wish to register for this event contact Brenda Allen,, by February 16. The Zoom link will be shared on or after February 17.

John D. Lawrence
Vice President for Extension and Outreach