Setting the Bar: Its Up to Us

- Friday, September 11, 2020
Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski from FreeImages

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?

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