Monday Update: Preparing for phased reopening

May 11, 2020

Message from Debra Sellers, on behalf of the Office of the Vice President,  to staff, faculty, and councils

In late April, Vice President Lawrence offered initial guidance to county extension districts on reopening county offices, and I know many of you have been working diligently on your plans. In her May 8 message President Wintersteen stated that University Human Resources will issue guidance this week for a phased return to campus beginning June 1. If you have not yet started working on your plans, now is the time to prepare in earnest for a phased reopening of ISU Extension and Outreach.

As a resource for our system, we are appointing a small committee to focus on the guidance we will receive from UHR, as well as continuing updates from Governor Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The committee will assess and integrate that guidance and communicate how it might be successfully applied within the unique context of our system. As ISU Extension and Outreach returns to work – on campus and in the counties – and reopens offices to the public, we must first plan for protecting the health and safety of staff, volunteers, participants, and communities. We need to devise and implement strategies for social distancing (also called physical distancing), personal health monitoring, and other infection control strategies. We acknowledge that ISU Extension and Outreach will not return to “business as usual,” regardless if we have “always done it that way,” no matter what “it” is. Instead, we embrace a new normal that allows us to safely engage all Iowans as our state reopens and recovers. One thing is certain: We will continue to build a strong Iowa.

On Friday I met, virtually, with our new Virtual Education Task Force. This group will assess ISU Extension and Outreach’s response and programming during the COVID-19 restrictions and identify lessons learned about virtual delivery of our educational offerings. As Iowa reopens and recovers, ISU Extension and Outreach will apply the lessons learned to better engage Iowans and build a strong Iowa in a post-pandemic world. The Virtual Education Task Force Charge is available for review.

Extension councils and 4-H will be working with our partners on county fair boards as they make difficult decisions about whether to hold their fairs this summer. County fairs that are held likely will be different from previous years, and innovation will be needed to provide rewarding educational experiences for youth and a safe environment for everyone. The 4-H Virtual Fairs Committee has been developing materials to help counties prepare for various options concerning county fairs this summer. In MyExtension you can access the Considerations for Virtual and Alternative Fairs May 5 webinar recording and other resources that can be shared with partners, committees, and stakeholders. The documents may be revised as needed, depending on the changing COVID-19 situation and recommendations from health and government officials. For more information, contact co-chairs Mike Anderson,, and Mitch Hoyer,

The COVID-19 Stories Project, a new initiative from the Iowa State University Library, helps Iowans document and preserve their COVID-19 experiences, sharing their stories with the world and impacting future research. Individuals may submit ISU stories; agriculture, food, and rural stories; and stories documenting the experiences of communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and/or have experienced harassment and stigmatization.

More notes

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