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ISU Extension and Outreach bringing university to the people

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/10/2012 1:12 PM

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WATERLOO, Iowa — Terry Maloy, Iowa Association of County Extension Councils executive director, said too often he hears that Extension is a best kept secret.

"We don't want it to be a secret," Maloy said at last week's town hall meeting on Extension at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. "There are a lot of really great programs and services offered that can help the citizens of Iowa."

Maloy and Extension and Outreach vice president Cathann Kress met with about 40 community members about how Iowa State in partnership with counties can best serve citizens. It was the last of five town hall meetings held throughout Iowa.

Kress said ISU president Steve Leath said one of the key metrics for his presidency is that ISU becomes the university that best serves its state.

"He was pretty clear with me that that includes a big role for Extension and Outreach," Kress said. "In being able to work in the communities and at the local level, our role will be key. We need to figure out how to do that effectively and how to make sure that we are keeping our university focused on what matters to the citizens across our state."

Two issues form what Kress calls "the DNA of Extension and Outreach."

"First, we have a commitment to education," Kress said. "We think education is how we can best solve today's challenges and how we can build for the future. We want to make sure that the research and knowledge of our institution can be made accessible and available to all citizens, and we want our citizens to inform our educators and researchers so that we're paying attention to the things that are important to them."

The second part of the DNA is communities. Extension and Outreach is the unit that takes the university out into the community.

"Being able to have those relationships at the local level is key to our being able to be effective," Kress said.

Extension tries to provide citizens with the very best data, information and context so that they can make good decisions.

"Our tag line is that we're people advancing people and that we do it in partnership with others," Kress said.

In the coming year, Extension will focus on four signature issues — economic development, health and well-being, food and the environment and K through 12 youth outreach.

"We're focusing on local actions that can help make sure that we are producing a safe, sustainable, accessible and affordable food supply for all Iowans," Kress said. "We're interested in supporting all segments of the food chain making sure that we're paying attention to reducing food insecurity for Iowa families."

In youth outreach, ISU Extension wants to continue its strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills.