Monday Update: What's Next for Extension?

May 22, 2023

Our Hellos and Handshakes sessions are now complete, with 15 sessions held in 13 counties. I haven’t added up the miles yet, but I’ve had plenty of time to get reacquainted with Iowa and get acquainted with some of you. I look forward to doing more of that.

Now that the tours are over, we’ve collected notes, a few recordings, and stacks of flipcharts filled with your thoughts around: 1) Things we should be proud of, and 2) Emerging opportunities and barriers to success. It’s the end of Hellos and Handshakes, and also our Community Conversations with community partners, but just the beginning of our “what’s next.” I’m selecting a team to sort through all these outputs and compile findings in late summer. Then this fall, the team will draft a strategic plan for review and refinement, working toward a January 2024 launch.

Until then, though, here are a few of my observations from Hellos and Handshakes.

The counties, and their people, are incredibly unique -- from roles and programming to locations and communities. But there were some commonalities. First, I saw a healthy, vibrant culture in action. The campus locations and county offices I visited were filled with laughter. They were also filled with people who care deeply about each other and the Iowans they serve. I listened to some fears about the future, driven by things like leadership shifts and the challenge of limited resources. I saw excitement over the great work that’s happening and new opportunities. And I learned that my wife and I are related to a lot of people in many places across the state. It might be six degrees of separation for Kevin Bacon, but if you are from Iowa – it is only two. I’m eager to turn all your ideas and inspirations into an actionable plan for moving us forward to what’s next for extension.

Many thanks to all who made Hellos and Handshakes possible: Mica Paul, my executive assistant; colleagues in Community and Economic Development, who planned and led the facilitated discussions; our assistant VP for County Services, Andrea Nelson, who traveled to each location and braved riding with the VP late at night; our county and campus hosts, who managed everything from locations to snacks to setup to introductions; Advancement, who supported presentations, visuals, setup, branding, and the flow of the day; and the extension team members who showed up to discuss where we are now and where we want to be.

Now, another question submitted from Annual Conference:

What’s your vision for forging new partnerships to address emerging issues or key topics where personnel resources are lacking?

This question has a lot packed into it and it is a scarcity question. So I’ll talk about my thought processes and try to make it as straightforward as possible.

  • First, we need to ask, where does the emerging issue fit within the list of priorities for extension? Extension can do anything, but extension cannot do everything. Is this a priority?
  • Second, if it is a priority and personnel resources are lacking, who is going to take the lead on this emerging issue or key topic? What are they going to give up? I assume everyone in extension is fully employed. As a result, if someone is going to work on this issue, what will they give up? You must prune an apple tree for it to bear a bountiful harvest.
  • Additionally, I believe that partnerships require that all partners contribute something. For extension, is it connections to either the university or the community, or is it to key personnel with knowledge and know-how? Is their time redirected or are new people needed? If new people need to be hired, where will the funding come from? Will it be new funding or reallocating current resources?

I know I answered a question with more questions, but I hope this answer gives you a better understanding of my thought process. Finally, do not be surprised if you ask me about a new initiative and I ask what you are willing to give up to make it a priority. 

Until next time,

Jason Henderson
Vice President for Extension and Outreach


CED teams earn national awards

From Erin Olson-Douglas, director, Community and Economic Development; Chris Seeger, professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist; and Sandra Oberbroeckling, program specialist.

Several teams from Community and Economic Development earned national awards from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP). The following teams were honored during the 2023 NACDEP Conference held April 30–May3.

  • “Mapping the Diversity of Languages Spoken in Iowa to Improve Services” won a national award in the Educational Technology category. Honored were members of CED’s Data and Technology team: Christopher J. Seeger, professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist, Bailey Hanson, extension GIS specialist, Rakesh Shah, extension systems analyst and Lisa Bates, Extension to Communities assistant director.

How many different languages do people speak in Iowa and where are they spoken? Attempts to answer this question resulted in the creation of a new dashboard on the Iowa Department of Human Rights (DHR) website titled “Languages Spoken in Iowa.” The idea emerged during the 2021 Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) Young Scholars Program, in which two DSPG teams, led by CED’s Data and Technology team, conducted projects for the Iowa DHR on the topics of educational attainment and workforce development for under-represented Iowans. Over the course of these projects, it became evident that having a better understanding of the languages spoken in Iowa would be valuable. The data team incorporated the Iowa Department of Education school-district’s English Learners dataset with American Community Survey data to create a website with “languages spoken” dashboards and posters.

  • “Data for Decision Makers: On-Demand Reports Informing Local Officials” is the national winner in the Educational Materials category. Members of the CED Data and Technology team were awarded: Christopher J. Seeger, professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist, Bailey Hanson, Extension GIS Specialist, Rakesh Shah, Extension Systems Analyst, Sandra Burke, Extension Demographic Specialist and Jay Maxwell, Extension Data Analytics Specialist.

Data for Decision Makers (DDMs) are brief reports presenting a profile on the characteristics of Iowa cities, counties, and regions. Topics include population, demographics, socioeconomics, and health and housing characteristics. More than 1,400 individual reports are available to the public for free download through the ISU Extension and Outreach Indicators Program website. Reports are updated regularly by CED’s Data and Technology team and include important indicators provided by state and federal sources. The database was most recently updated in March 2023 with the special American Community Survey (ACS) data release for the new state legislative districts. The next release of 2020 Decennial Census data will come from the U.S. Census Bureau late May 2023. Look for updates in the coming month.

  • “Marketing Hometown America Curriculum Update” earned an Excellence in Teamwork Award and was recognized as the national runner-up and north central region winner in this category. The multi-state team includes Lynn Adams, community development specialist, and Mary Weinand, community development specialist.

Marketing Hometown America is a facilitation, study circles, and strategic planning program to help rural communities market themselves to new residents and new businesses to maintain and enhance community economic vitality. For the past two years, teams from the land grant universities in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa worked together to update this already successful and award-winning Marketing Hometown America program.