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I find it hard to believe that we are pushing into October. Really? October? What a year 2020 has been so far. This week I had a chance to hear Extension administrators from across the U.S. talk about how we’ve been able to adapt over the past several months. With every story shared, I was reminded of just how resilient we can be and it felt good to know that being an Extension professional provides us the opportunity to be part of something bigger.
It looks and feels like the larger environment in which we operate will continue to look the same for the foreseeable future. The university has shared plans through spring semester 2021. Given what has been shared, it makes sense to approach our work over the next six months in the same way we have approached our work since March.
That said, if you have not already, I encourage you to briefly reflect on what you have learned since March and use this knowledge to sketch out a plan of work for what remains of 2020 and into 2021. What would you include? Think about these five:
- scheduled and proposed engagements (e.g. formal teaching, facilitation opportunities, field visits, etc) with a short description of the anticipated audiences for each
- creative and scholarly efforts, both planned and currently in-process (e.g. curriculum, webinars, videos, etc)
- professional development opportunities to be pursued and specific professional development needed (e.g. inservices, webinars, virtual conferences, etc)
- those things you can stop doing (make the list and put them in some semblance of order)
- that one big thing (e.g. what big project or systemwide initiative might you want to work on if you had a bit of ‘extra’ time?)
Regardless of your position, how might you work with your colleagues in drafting a collaborative plan that includes specific roles for everyone in your office? How might you sketch out your county-level collaborative plans that engage support staff, program staff, and field specialists, for example? Maybe think about your specific contributions to statewide teams and your other collaborative efforts that might engage new and different audiences.
If nothing else, the past several months have served to remind us what we are capable of enduring. Okay, none of us asked for that, but thank you for the workout. Now that we have grown stronger, how do we work together to make the most of the opportunities on the horizon?
Fall is for football and going back to school (well, normally). It is when the days get shorter, the dew gets heavier, and Linus waits patiently in the moonlit darkness for the Great Pumpkin. It is also when faculty promotion and tenure committees come together to review the accomplishments of their faculty peers.
I have had the opportunity to sit in on four different committees in the past couple of weeks. The committees ranged in size from 3 members to 30. Each was guided by their department’s Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure documents or APT. The APT aligns with Volume 3 of the Office of Academic Affairs Policies and Procedures Handbook; and other policies and procedures of the college (e.g. FAES APT) and university to which the department and its faculty are subject. If that sounds like pretty serious business, it is because it is.
Working in ways worthy of promotion requires personal and professional growth. One thing I’ve learned is that we have an abundance of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Department of Extension faculty enjoy a support structure that involves peer-to-peer coaching, annual dossier reviews, and a seemingly never-ending list of potential collaborators and opportunities to pursue. Extension faculty pursuing promotion benefit from our P&T committees comprised of programmatic diversity and a variety of Extension position types too. Whether serving as chair, coach, procedural oversight designee or committee alternate, their peers take the various committee roles quite seriously.
This year, the Extension Promotion Committee was chaired by Gary Gao and included Ed Lentz and Myra Moss as members (this committee of professors reviews our professor candidates). The Extension P&T Committee reviews our associate professor candidates, dossiers of candidates being considered for a faculty appointment, and courtesy appointments. The committee this year was chaired by Pat Brinkman and included:
- Jim Bates
- David Civittolo
- Julie Fox
- Jason Hedrick
- Mark Light
- David Marrison
- Jeff McCutcheon
- Chris Penrose
- Brian Raison
- Eric Romich
In concluding her three-year P&T committee term, Pat recently described how to better connect one’s various efforts and accomplishments throughout the dossier using a concept referred to as parallel construction. I think of this like threads. Because it is not unusual for your overall dossier submission to contain 100 pages or more, such threads help the reader better see your contributions…in teaching, curriculum, creative and scholarly outputs, funding, and service. Because of our use of this technique, the quality of our faculty, and the dedicated work of our promotion committees, our dossier submissions have become known within the college as being some of the highest quality submissions. Thank you, Pat. And thank you to all of our dedicated colleagues involved in this year’s P&T committee work.
Last week we talked about three ways to think of Extension. At OSU, the term Extension (broadly defined) represents a mission area within CFAES (and the engagement function of all land-grant institutions). Extension is also what we call the organizational structure comprised of roughly 800 people who have full or partial responsibilities for engaging Ohioans. And a third way Extension exists is as an OSU Office of Academic Affairs-recognized academic unit (i.e. department) within CFAES. I have realized that even when talking with the closest colleagues, our conversations about our ‘Extension work’ can get a little clunky.
I like simple. I like when things work. I believe life should be fun, at least a little bit. So, I have been thinking and talking to others more and more about how we use the term ‘Extension’ and specifically what we mean when we use it.
Deep-thinker and long-time friend and colleague Greg LaBarge has been on a similar mission and walked the same path a bit with me again this week as this topic was part of the Department of Extension faculty meeting discussion on Wednesday. In Greg’s mind, a key difference between the Department of Extension and other more ‘traditional’ academic departments is that we engage a wide variety of partners in addressing issues rather than teaching within a discipline area for undergraduate/graduate degrees. In addition, Extension scholarship is collaborative and action oriented (and often multi-disciplinary in nature). That said, both have a role in preparing people to engage with others to address all types of community and societal issues, concerns, opportunities, etc - the essence of the land grant mission.
Now a bit more on the Extension organizational structure. Within that structure we have colleagues whose academic ‘home’ or tenure initiating unit (TIU) is not Extension (e.g. Animal Science, Horticulture & Crop Science, Human Science). In addition to their Extension program responsibilities, these colleagues are also typically expected to teach classes (i.e. in academic-speak, engage in resident instruction and advising) and maintain a research program as well. The rest of us within that organizational structure enjoy a 100% full-time ‘Extension appointment’ in the academic home that is referred to as the Department of Extension. What we do sets the ‘standard’ for Extension teaching (and engagement), scholarship, and service. In what ways are you setting the bar for Excellence in Extension work today?
In a previous post, I talked about wearing two different hats. You know this is not unique to our work. Depending upon the day of week and your audience, you might be wearing your Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator hat, your committee chair hat, a hat that fits you as a peer reviewer, or the hat you model when taking on one of your stewardship roles.
Why so many hats you ask? For one, our work affords us the opportunity to serve in many different roles. Whether we spend time at a desk, in the woods, in a field, or knee-deep in rows and rows of an Excel worksheet, it's people work that we do and we relate to them in a variety of ways. Our work also involves engaging with others at a variety of levels, each level with its own unique hat.
I was once told by now-professor emeritus J. David McCracken that an Extension professional is a ‘missionary of sorts’…and this makes total sense to me when I think of the land-grant mission. At this level, Extension is very much a ‘mission-area’ of every land-grant institution. When you consider the implications of this statement, we might say that every employee of OSU (and every other land-grant institution) could be considered an Extension colleague – and we are all on a ‘mission’. This is Extension at the highest level.
Extension could also be thought of as a formal organization. Extension from this perspective involves an org chart which includes a variety of positions (and variety of hats). Viewed through this lens, Extension involves ties and connections throughout the formal organizational structure.
If mission area and organizational structure aren’t enough, consider Extension as a department within the formal academic structure of OSU. The Department of Extension is one of literally dozens of departments (each defined by their Pattern of Administration) within the 15 different colleges that comprise the larger university. As a department, Extension has tenured and untenured faculty and staff wearing a variety of Department of Extension hats as they carry out their work throughout Ohio.
So many ways to think of Extension. See now why it is so hard to describe your occupation to others?!? What can you do to help create a greater clarity?