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The All-FCS Conference was this week. The virtual event focused on resilience and by all indications from the 200+ participants, the event was a huge success. I had a chance to be a panelist in the closing session along with Lori Myers, senior director, American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) and Erik Porfeli, professor and chair, department of Human Sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology.
The focus of the panel was adapting, changing and collaborating. We talked about looming issues and how to engage one another and stakeholders in pursuit of a brighter future. Three different perspectives converged in the panel discussion. And as in most discussions, it didn’t take long to uncover ideas and beliefs we had in common. Here are a few highlights:
- The future of our profession is largely up to us. How can we come together to identify what we want to create or strengthen what we are about? What resources do we have to assist us? What resources do we need? When do we get started?
- We need to remember our work is a marathon (not a sprint). Can we discipline ourselves to avoid the ‘noise’ and take care of ourselves? Can we focus on a game plan that is ‘friendly’ to existing teammates and potential new partners? Can we commit to doing better at telling our story?
- All that is shiny and new is not always better. How can we be more intentional about recognizing and honoring the good work done by colleagues who have come before us? Can we get better practiced at reminding ourselves (and others) about the value that we bring?
- No matter the position we hold, each of us is provided opportunities to lead. Can we recognize when our leadership is needed and muster the courage to step up? What do we have to do to develop the confidence to step up when we sense it is time?
T McCoy showcased her moderator skills and wrapped up the two-day event with tons of energy. It was encouraging to see such enthusiasm for our work and optimism for the future, even after all the weirdness that is 2020. And, like the individuals and communities that we serve, and the larger organization of which we are a part, I was once again reminded that we understand what it takes to endure.
In a post earlier this summer we talked about Extension materials and resources (such as factsheets, bulletins, curriculum, webpages, and other published media like videos and webinars) and the critical role they play in programming. We focused on how the review of such material by peers can help ensure their quality and ultimately make such material and us better. If you missed that post, please see the recently updated Peer Review Guidelines.
Our Extension teaching is an equally important element of our programming effort and its review by peers can help us become better educators too. Extension teaching involves engaging with audiences individually and in groups, face to face and via media. We engage others in a variety of approaches ranging from informal facilitation to formal classroom-type instruction.
OSU’s Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) takes teaching seriously. Enough so that all teaching faculty receive formal evaluation by peers. To address this requirement in Extension, all A&P and faculty educators and specialists are to arrange for at least one peer evaluation of teaching annually. See the recently updated guidelines here.
What’s the goal? To get better. That means we can’t be afraid to offer constructive and useful feedback as a peer reviewer and identify specific suggestions for improvement. As an instructor, we need to seek out peers who possess a level of expertise needed to provide helpful feedback. Among all the colleagues you have observed engaging with others, who do you most want to emulate? Who has a reputation for being an outstanding teacher? One change that should make finding your next peer reviewer easier: Your annual letter from a peer of an equal or higher rank is not required but should be the practice to the extent possible, especially for faculty pursuing promotion.
Let’s get serious about evaluating our teaching, whatever form our Extension teaching may take. Be a reviewer who offers up valuable feedback. And be a teacher that seeks out high-quality insights.
You have heard this before, one of the neatest things about Extension work is that it is a team sport. Teams typically include a wide range of players serving in a variety of roles from administrative associates to state-based faculty. Working together our various Extension teams partner up with other teams that might be community-based, industry-based, or part of other similar Extension-type organizations.
Something else I really appreciate about Extension work is that our efforts are varied and wide-ranging. We focus on a specific problem a homeowner is facing whether it is an issue with their lawn, a tree, or flying insects in the landscape. We work on a statewide basis to help people understand how to prepare more nutritious foods for their families. There are so many more examples and in each of them, we work together as a team to carry out the Extension mission, each of us in a particular role that is so important to the effort.
In my role I read about so many of these efforts in faculty dossiers, annual performance reports, program highlights, weekly newsletters, etc. But, there is something completely different about seeing Extension work firsthand, and I had the chance again this week to feel the excitement of the Extension work we do.
I have read about Jim Jasinski’s work (he was recently promoted to professor - see his CV here) but hearing from Jim firsthand as we rode through the fields at the Western Agricultural Research Station in South Charleston really brought his Extension efforts to life for me. In our brief visit, I sensed his enthusiasm and passion for his work. I also heard about challenges and the need for patience (especially this year). Through our visit, all of Jim’s dossier pages I had read previously were really brought to life and I felt better able to help Jim and his efforts as a member of the larger Extension team.
And that really is my goal. How can I help you today?
Not long into my first assignment as an Extension professional, I was ‘elected’ by my peers to the role of ‘president’ of CD. Looking back, I should have been listening more closely for the train whistle in the distance. Little did I realize the opportunities it would bring and prepare me to serve again in different roles for different organizations (Ohio Epsilon Sigma Phi – ESP and the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals – NACDEP). One thing about Extension work, there’s never a shortage of acronyms or opportunities to serve and grow.
President of CD sounds like a powerful position, but I later learned this role was charged primarily with coordinating Extension CD awards. It didn’t matter, I was new and I was excited to get involved in the community of professionals to learn more. The role was part of the board of what was then referred to as the Ohio Extension Agents’ Association (OEAA). OEAA was the predecessor to the Ohio Joint Council of Extension Professionals (OJCEP).
We’ve come a long way since then. And we have been able to do so because of the way we have worked together. OEAA didn’t have a place for Extension support staff or ‘administration’ but today OJCEP is a community that welcomes all Extension professionals. This professional community represents organizations that exist to serve every type of Extension focus (e.g. ANREP, ESP, NACAA, NACDEP, NAEPSDP, NAE-4HA, NEAFCS, and TERSSA.)
OJCEP is organized, supports professional development and provides ongoing support for all of us in Ohio much in the same way as the national JCEP organization exists for all Extension professionals across the U.S. Through your involvement you have opportunities to grow personally and professionally. There are countless opportunities to lead and learn how to lead. You can submit your best work to be judged by peers via formal recognition and awards opportunities. Conference and professional development opportunities are also available as well as scholarships to help defray their costs and other similar activities you may pursue.
We realize the return on investments we make in our professional communities (whether we decide to engage by program area or Extension overall, and at state or national levels) much in the same way we realize our investments in our personal relationships and communities. In short, we get what we give.
Now is the time to renew or join the membership (see Sabrina’s email sent Oct 1). You also have a chance to join the community on October 12 at the next regularly scheduled OJCEP meeting to be held via Zoom at https://osu.zoom.us/j/94361085213?pwd=dGlaSWxvS2pCeGRPN2VLM21xeGNHZz09 Meeting ID: 943 6108 5213 and Password: 489924
And don’t be afraid of the train whistles in the distance.