Recent Blog Posts
It is hard to believe it was March 16 when we last met on these pages. My apologies to you, but higher priorities called. Well, it was largely you, and to be honest, although it has been hectic, I have enjoyed nearly every moment of it.
What am I talking about? Put simply, your path (here’s where you may want to reference a late February post focused on educator opportunities for professional growth and advancement.)
Through the faculty annual review process and A&P educator promotion reviews, I have had the chance over the past month or so to learn so much more about our educators and their professional paths. I have read about your accomplishments and your plans for the future in your own words as well as the words of your colleagues and external stakeholders. In addition, reading the written comments of your annual review letters enables me to visualize your professional growth similar to time-lapse photography. Thank you all for making the most of your opportunities to document growth and opportunities for improvement using your words.
Seeing such a broad cross-section of Extension educators, from our recently hired A&P I and II promotion candidates to our 30+ year professors, from this perspective has been a joy. It fills my heart to see among the documentation of our junior A&P colleagues peer evaluation of teaching letters authored by many of our most accomplished senior level faculty. To read about our plans for the future, especially considering everything we learned about ourselves and our work over the past year, gives me the greatest hope and confidence that we will continue to make a difference in the lives of many.
To read about you like this has strengthened my awareness of your work and your unique contributions. Many are just starting to walk their path and many others have already covered quite a bit of ground. I appreciate each of you. Remember that there is no one ideal or perfect path to make a difference; each path is as unique as each of us.
What a beautiful way to spend one’s day. I look forward to helping you create your path!
Despite the sleet and snow that you may have seen yesterday, know that Spring is here. March 20 may be the official start in the northern hemisphere, but I know just last weekend I saw the earliest spring flowers reach up out of the cold earth to mark the start of another season.
Spring is an exciting time. The sun feels warmer. Birds welcome the day with singing and enthusiasm. Their excitement and the longer daylight hours always give me a bit more energy for my to-do list. And I really begin to look forward to events and activities scheduled and yet-to-be planned over the months ahead.
No doubt we have endured a great deal over the past year. We have also learned so much. We have stretched ourselves and grown as individuals and as an organization. I am grateful for the opportunity we have had to re-think how we go about our mission. Each of us has had the chance to reflect on different ways to engage Ohioans and each other, as individuals and in teams. We have reached new audiences and served our traditional partners in new ways as well.
I am full of energy and hope and sense that we are on the verge of breaking out. I am hopeful that it is just around the corner. To what extent will we embrace the opportunity? It is up to us.
“How am I doing? How does my work compare to all the others you supervise?” After walking to the downtown ice-cream stand, chatting about the weather and other small talk, this is what I asked of my supervisor at my first or second annual performance review meeting. Sitting at a picnic bench in the sunshine as cars and trucks idled by, my supervisor said, “You are doing great, just keep doing what you are doing.”
I went to the Extension promotion workshop a few weeks later and nearly every year after that to better understand the expectations of an Extension professional. In these workshops I learned so much more about, for example:
- the various forms of Extension teaching, scholarship, and service,
- the different types of peer review and why we value it,
- the purpose of evaluation (of our teaching, programs, curriculum, initiatives, etc), and
- the formality involved in the promotion process and why it is that way.
These things are the essence of Extension work and key among the responsibilities we have to OSU’s Office of Academic Affairs as members of the Department of Extension.
With these responsibilities also come opportunities for growth and development that can span an educator’s career. Here you can read more about the Two-Track System for Extension Educators in the Department of Extension and other material describing professional advancement in Extension such as:
- the annual review process for faculty,
- peer review process and guidelines, and
- the A&P educator promotion process.
Our system is designed to challenge our growth and development. Our task is to seek balance in teaching/programs, scholarship, and service, while growing ourselves in all three areas.
Whether you are a more-recent hire or advanced in rank, how do you proceed? Take some time to reflect on where you have been and where you would like to go. Really look at your accomplishments to date in relation to the General Expectations (for A&P or faculty). Talk to your area leader, assistant director, and/or me about your work.
Don’t do this alone. Together we’ll work to identify specific areas for growth and further development. We travel this path with others!
Life is full of questions and these days it seems there is clearly no shortage. As Extension professionals this is our business. It is what we do. When talking with others about our work, we may also encounter this one: What is the difference between outreach and engagement? And (c’mon, you know it is coming), how is Extension different?
I was in a couple of meetings this week where these questions were asked. That makes sense, right? It’s cold and snowy. It’s mid-February. We work at a land-grant institution. We have meetings. Our business is all about finding answers to questions.
Writing is fun when the author is inspired. Given that I’ve been thinking on these questions more and more lately, they seemed the perfect inspiration for this post. Quick side note: I have learned that this comes to your in-box at all hours of the day and night; not because that’s when I write it, but rather our little digital assistants that make up the delivery system seem to take hours upon hours to package and forward the material. I don’t write it then, send it then, or expect you to read it then.
Outreach, engagement, and Extension are considered a critical mission area of land-grant institutions. In many ways they are similar. But how are they different? Let’s look at congressional testimony provided on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act. Celebrating the centennial of the creation of Extension, Scott Reed, former Oregon State Extension director, noted the organizational learning (and evolution) that took place over the first 100 years. Reed said that Extension work involves more than simply conveying information through outreach channels. It also involves engagement of audiences and partners. Reed said, “Outreach begins with an answer; Engagement ends with one.”
If teaching, research, and service are key foundational principles of a land-grant institution, we could say Outreach to communities is all that service that involves taking knowledge gained through our research out to others (“I have the answer”). To Engage would imply we have in some way partnered with these audiences to inform our shared inquiry (i.e. research) that leads to “we have answers” (and more questions, of course). So, what is Extension? In addition to the ways it has been described in this previous post, might it also be considered the best of both and the brand name given to such efforts funded cooperatively, at least in part, since 1914?
Ready to think and discuss more on this? Next Tuesday (Feb 16, 3:30-4:30) we have time to do just that. Let me know if you would like the connection info. It’s cold and snowy, remember?
February 1 is just around the corner and a key date for A&P educators who are interested in being considered for promotion. I am so happy to see a steady flow of draft three-page narratives and nominations*. Terri and I expect this to continue leading up to the deadline and want to make you aware of what comes next in this post.
If you haven’t or don’t plan to submit this year but want to learn about the A&P promotion process, please review our November 18 blog post. Terri Fisher has also posted resources focused on educator expectations, writing your narrative, the timeline and review process, and step by step instructions online.
Initial review - February 1 to March 1. Your supervisor, assistant director/s, and associate chair will discuss eligibility and accomplishments illustrated in the draft narrative. This review committee will determine whether you move forward after which you will receive notification (and further instruction) from Terri Fisher. A member of the review committee will contact you regarding suggested revisions to your three-page narrative, if applicable, as well.
Final submission - March 15. If you are invited to move forward this year, you will submit your final three-page narrative and evaluation documentation, including peer evaluations of teaching and annual performance reviews.
Review committee recommendations - April. Committees will meet to consider documentation and render recommendations to the Extension Director. Your supervisor will author the review committee recommendation letter addressed to the director of Extension on behalf of the associate chair. You and the Director of Extension will receive this letter by May 1.
Final determination - May 1-15. The Director of Extension will make the final determination on promotion and notify the candidate regarding the promotion decision which becomes effective September 1.
Please remember that much of this process is new. Please feel free to work through it in ‘evaluation mode’ with me and Terri Fisher and share feedback and suggestions for improvement at any point you see fit!
*The nomination is as simple as a note to Terri Fisher (fisher.456 and cc’d to the other team members) stating, “I would like to nominate XYZ for consideration for promotion.” Should you nominate yourself? That’s not my ideal, but the option exists in cases where your review team members don’t feel able to do so. Let me know if you want to talk more about this. Three-page narratives should be sent to Terri Fisher (fisher.456 and cc’d to your review committee members).
Last week we discussed key questions about the A&P Promotion process. Go here to see that post. I’ve read a good number of draft narratives the past couple of weeks that inspire me to focus this post on telling your story in the three-page narrative.
We most often report our work as individual, stand-alone events or creations. For example, we might report teaching ‘Leadership Styles’ on January 12 with 22 learners. And we report writing about grain markets for a column in the local paper published the week of October 5. Or we note writing a newsletter that we sent to subscribers in December.
For no fault of our own, we make a long list of such items. These lists are important, but how do all these things translate into value? That is, how do they all work together to help others grow personally or professionally, capitalize on opportunities, address a widespread concern, or in some way improve a situation? We want to be able to report these things too.
If we think of each of the activities and accomplishments on our lists as ‘dots’, the point of authoring a narrative is to connect them. If that seems easier said than done for you, try this: Take a step back from your list, a step back from the work you do every day…What do you see? Ask yourself what ultimately have you been trying to accomplish? Where do you work? What is your assignment? Who is your audience or audiences? What are their needs and their opportunities that in partnering with them you can help address? What have you accomplished in carrying out your work?
Look at you go. You do some really important stuff with some pretty amazing partners when you stop, reflect, and see the bigger picture. Inspired by this, what would you like to do next to help strengthen people, organizations, and communities? Write that down too to make it feel more real. Look at us go now, you have set a course for future efforts. Try to practice seeing both the trees and the forest!
Early January means we are on the verge of full-on A&P promotion season. I am so excited to be able to engage so many colleagues in this process of professional growth and advancement! I am also excited to really get focused on promotion in these blog pages. See the changes to the process in our November 18 blog post. And see web-based resources focused on educator expectations, writing your narrative, the timeline and review process, and step by step instructions online (thank you, Terri Fisher!).
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions to date. Feel free to follow up with me (davis.1081) or post a comment if you would like more info.
Who nominates and what does that nomination look like?
Ideally, the nomination isn’t a “surprise” for any member of the team… i.e. they have been in communication regarding educator performance, readiness to move forward, etc.
The nomination is as simple as a note to Terri Fisher.456 (and cc’d to the other team members) stating, “I would like to nominate XYZ for consideration for promotion.” This nomination triggers the important next steps Terri handles for us, always with a most pleasant smile (e.g. arranging team review meetings, setting up folders/files, tracking recommendations, follow up, etc).
The educator or any other members of the team can nominate (e.g. area leader, assistant director, associate chair, and/or director of operations in cases where the educator is also an area leader).
Who should send the draft 3-page narrative and to whom is it sent?
Educators are encouraged to submit their draft narrative. Why? To reinforce a sense of team, ownership (see final question below), personal responsibility, etc… Educators are also encouraged to submit the final 3-page narrative should they be recommended to move forward by the review committee.
Three-page narratives should be sent to Terri Fisher.456 (and cc’d to the other team members).
Regardless of when you plan to submit, I would encourage you to maintain a draft 3-page narrative that you update every so often as a way to help you see the “big picture” of your work.
By when do the nomination and draft narrative need turned in?
February 1… Based on what Terri receives, she will scramble to align review team calendars such that we can meet to make the determination regarding the educators moving forward.
What are the other key dates?
March 15 is the deadline for educators (who are to move forward) to submit a final narrative, peer evaluation of teaching letters, and annual performance reviews.
April 1-30… Review committees will be meeting throughout April to make formal recommendations to the director of Extension by May 1. The candidate’s supervisor is tasked with authoring the review committee recommendation letter addressed to the director of Extension on behalf of the associate chair. To aid in consistency, a recommendation letter template will be provided.
How does one reconcile the draft 3-page narrative feedback and guidance?
Well, remember that feedback and guidance is generally shared with the best of intentions, and…
At the end of the day the author is ultimately the “owner” of their narrative. Their work, like their 3-page narrative, belongs to them. As the author, what you decide to do with feedback is your choice. As the well-intentioned colleague, don't take offense if your suggestions don't make the final cut.
Thank you for continuing to establish and strengthen our lines of communication with team members. The level of interest I have seen in working together more as a team strengthens my belief in the notion that professional growth and advancement is best approached as a team sport! It is truly uplifting to learn more about the difference we make across Ohio.
I love this time of year. It is a time for traditions and opportunities for fellowship with friends, family, and co-workers. And for me, it comes at just the right time, after a busy spring, summer, and fall.
I have learned that for many of us our Extension work from mid-November until the first of January looks much different than the rest of the year. The holiday season encourages us to slow down and creates opportunities for reflection. Whether you are driving to grandmother’s house, sitting in the woods with the deer and squirrels, visiting with friends during the Extension Annual Conference, or shopping (on-line, of course, and not during the conference!), there are so many things we can think about, reflect on, and appreciate.
I also learned a long time ago that Thanksgiving really is more than a meal. It is a mindset and a feeling that I have come to realize is best observed every day of the year. Being mindful of this keeps us grounded and focused on what really matters most. It helps us remember that every day is a gift, and it is up to us to use it wisely.
Every morning I wake, I am grateful for the gift of health and happiness. Both of these, I believe, are made possible by relationships. Relationships with co-workers and friends and family. I am also very grateful for the opportunity to engage in work with meaning. It is a true blessing to be able to work for and with others every day in ways that can change lives of others.
So the cold, the wind, and the day after day of overcast skies of Ohio are most definitely not high on my list. But don’t these things remind you of how much you love the other three seasons in Ohio? And they generally do their best to keep me inside where so many good thoughts (and the projects that have been put off) can happen.
We finally made it! Today I am happy to share recent changes to the A&P educator promotion process. The changes are the product of numerous conversations to gain feedback and insights. Thank you everyone for your input and guidance in this effort to make it easier to understand the process.
The key changes are highlighted below. Significantly more detail and everything A&P educator promotion-related is found online (thank you, Terri Fisher!).
What are the key changes?
- “Minimum three years in rank”. A nomination now replaces the minimum time in rank. The nomination is a simple note from the educator’s supervisor, assistant director(s), associate chair and a draft 3-page narrative from the educator by February 1. An educator can also self-nominate.
- Two votes. Before March 1, a review committee comprised of the educator’s supervisor, assistant director(s), and associate chair will decide whether the educator will proceed. For those moving forward, additional documentation will be considered and inform a second recommendation vote occurring in April (see next bullet!)
- Scaled documentation. As an A&P educator proceeds through the ranks, the documentation required for consideration of promotion becomes more involved. Additional documentation referenced above includes teaching evaluations (for A&P II, III, and IV candidates), annual performance reviews and peer feedback (A&P III candidates) and clientele feedback (A&P IV candidates).
- “Three consecutive years of exceeding expectations”. We have opted to replace this with a new minimum standard: Demonstrating a record of performance that exceeds expectations over the time period more often than not. So, assuming an educator’s performance has been reviewed five times since last promotion, exceeding expectations in 3 of those 5 annual reviews would be required for promotion.
Ready to learn more? Remember that everything A&P educator promotion-related including significantly more detail is found here. In addition, two A&P educator promotion workshops are scheduled for December 11 and 16 from 1:30-2:30 (via Zoom). Please RSVP to fisher.456 for workshop connection info. If you are unable to attend, both will be recorded and found here.
And as always, if you have questions and want to talk more, do not hesitate to contact me! (davis.1081 or 614-292-8793)
I absolutely love Ohio. There was a time when I never would have said it, much less thought it. But, I have come to realize the opportunity that it offers. A short drive in any direction usually brings a change in terrain. There are different types of streams, rivers, and lakes. The roads are curvy and hilly. And they are straight and flat. The communities and their people and what they do varies across the state too. Living in Ohio provides opportunities for so many rich experiences.
I love its changing seasons. Each one is so different, from the birds and wildlife to the different types of sports one can experience. From the hush of a fresh blanket of snow, to spring flowers, summer cookouts and fall leaves; there are so many ways to enjoy our surroundings. So much opportunity for variety here.
All that said, I’ll be the first to admit I like a routine. A routine is predictable and comfortable. Who doesn’t like to be comfortable? But routine is the often the main ingredient for a giant bowl of boredom. And, a key ingredient in a side dish of complacency.
I love life. Every day we have an opportunity to re-invent. Ourselves, our relationships, our attitude, the way we think about our roles and responsibilities while we are here. We are blessed every morning with the opportunity to re-think what we do. It is up to us. How can we make space for re-inventing in our routine?