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“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?