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We are NDSU Extension Service: Capacity Development (12/11/2015)

This is the twelfth and final entry in a series of blog posts to highlight key information about our Extension organization’s culture. The focus of this post is on capacity development.

The mission of the NDSU Extension Service is to create learning partnerships that help adults and youth enhance their lives and communities. How can the organization achieve this mission? First and foremost is hiring great people with the right skill set and passion to serve North Dakotans. Next, we must be flexible and resourceful to gauge and be prepared to meet the tool boxchanging critical issues facing North Dakotans. How do we do that? By retooling, and that’s where Extension’s investment in capacity development comes in. We want to make sure that we have the right tools—the right knowledge and skills—in our toolboxes.

Lifelong learning is what we do for our clientele and ourselves. Just as you listen to your clientele and offer programs to help meet their ever-changing needs, administration listens to you and offers training and resources to equip you. The organization places high value on what you brought with you to your job and further invests in building your skill sets.

The NDSU Extension Service makes a substantial investment in orienting and mentoring new agents and specialists, and educating all staff through conferences and in-service opportunities in and out of state. The primary focus of this training is professional development—to hone skills in educating, facilitating and collaborating. Organizationally-supported opportunities for development are summarized in our professional development chart.

But it doesn’t stop there. The investment continues in you as a person, and this opportunity is not available in many organizations. Extension offers several opportunities for personal development with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as the organization’s lead program for all of us as individuals. The content of 7 Habits is not subject-matter driven but rather supports development and growth that is directly related to your personal and work life. The 7th Habit, “Sharpening the Saw,” is a direct reference to the need to make time to learn new skills and prepare for new opportunities. Watch for the next training opportunity and sign up!

The most recent initiative adopted by the Extension Leadership Team (ELT) to recognize and reward ongoing professional development is the Learn and Lead, and Advanced Degree incentive programs. These programs give agents, parent educators, and nutrition education assistants the opportunity to add to their base pay and/or receive a cash stipend or supplemental professional development funds for work above standard expectations. In considering retention of quality employees, these programs became a priority for the ELT. If you’re an agent, parent educator or nutrition education assistant, visit the website to take a look at how you can benefit from these programs.

Finally, the NDSU Extension Service leadership team includes district directors and program leaders who care about you and are here to answer questions and to support your personal and professional development needs. They value you as the organization’s most vital resource and are committed to maintaining a high standard for professional development in Extension that is second to none in the nation.

Check out our recently revamped Careers site for thoughts on why we believe NDSU Extension is a great place to work.

Deb Gebeke, Assistant Director-Family and Consumer Sciences, Program Development and Evaluation, and Staff Development

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We are NDSU Extension Service: Teamwork (12/7/2015)

This is the eleventh in a series of blog posts to highlight key information about our Extension organization’s culture. The focus of this post is teamwork.

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." –Michael Jordan

The NDSU Bison football team is famous for winning national championships! As they “Drive For Five,” what is the thing that makes them more successful than other teams in their division? Teamwork! They use a cohesive team to win games. Each team they play has strengths and weaknesses, and the Bison coaching staff and players use their team and teamwork to outmatch their competitors.

The NDSU Extension Service is a group of individuals working as team to achieve a common vision: to create learning partnerships that help adults and youth enhance their lives and communities.

While NDSU Extension has some of the best talent available, we know that our individual efforts and talent are not enough to “win,” and achieve our purpose and maintain relevancy to our constituency. It takes a true team effort from needs assessment to program development, program delivery to evaluation compilation, and development of impact statements and reporting of successes. It takes a team of talented Extension workers to complete the task and win the game!

It is vital we understand our individual and colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses. Part of having a successful team is being able to weave our talents with one another’s. It is also important for team members to assist other teammates when challenges arise in their effort. Teamwork takes sacrifice—sacrifice for each other to bring out the best in each other.

NDSU Extension Service is a winning team!  The challenge is to maintain the winning effort while advancing the Extension vison. To preserve our winning heritage, it will take hard work, talent, teamwork and intelligence. Are you up for the challenge?

Lisa Pederson, Beef Quality Specialist and Administrative Intern

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National honors x 2 (11/20/2015)

Khan Endres ASA 2015The NDSU Crop and Pest Report received national honors at the American Society of Agronomy annual meeting this week at Minneapolis, Minn. Mohamed Khan (left), Extension sugarbeet specialist, submitted the entry with assistance from Jan Knodel, Extension entomologist, and accepted the 2015 Extension and Education Community Award for Newsletter for the team. Shana Forster and Greg Endres (right), area cropping systems specialists with the North Central REC and Carrington REC, respectively, were also present at the ceremony. The Crop and Pest Report team includes these members of the Extension faculty/staff: Patrick Beauzay, Ryan Buetow, Greg Endres, Shana Foster, Dave Franzen, Andrew Friskop, Hans Kandel, Janet Knodel, Lesley Lubenow, Sam Markell, Tom Peters, Joel Ransom, Andy Robinson, Aimee Thapa and Rich Zollinger. Congratulations, all, for your collaborative work on a report that many producers have come to rely on for the latest in agronomic news from NDSU.

In September we announced that Julie Garden-Robinson, Extension food and nutrition specialist, received the North Central Region Excellence in Extension Award. Regional winners went on to receive national recognition, so this week it was my pleasure to join in round two of the applause at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) annual meeting at Indianapolis, Ind. Congratulations, Julie, for your “uncompromising dedication to excellence.”

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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We are NDSU Extension Service: Empowerment (11/16/2015)

This is the tenth in a series of blog posts to highlight key information about our Extension organization’s culture. The focus of this post is empowerment.

As an Extension employee, you are fully empowered every day to do your job as the needs dictate. Being directly engaged with the clientele allows for a seamless feedback loop that provides Extension agents and specialists with programming direction and with such a close, personal connection to clientele, they can dictate the path needed to meet their programming goals.

County agents need to be independent since they work a distance from the main campus, and state specialists are self-directed leaders of their program. However, this independence and self-leadership needs to be balanced with teamwork because of the various partners involved in Extension work. The balance of independence, leadership and teamwork is determined by the partners which provides the freedom to determine the best balance.

The whole idea of being empowered and self-directed is borne out in local needs assessment and program development. In fact, most Extension position announcements state that being self-directed in the work environment is a qualification for being an Extension employee. Therefore, Extension employees should feel informed and involved in the work they do.

Finally, the vision of the NDSU Extension Service states that "... we will strive to be innovative, adaptable and willing to take risks to create new ways of thinking, learning and addressing issues.”  Encouraging staff to take risks and be innovative certainly reinforces our philosophy of empowering employees.

Ron Wiederholt, Southeast District Director

Next up: Team Orientation

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Four from Extension honored at NDSU Harvest Bowl (11/12/2015)

It was truly a pleasure to add my applause to the crowd’s as we gathered in Fargo on Nov. 6 for the 2015 Harvest Bowl awards banquet. The Harvest Bowl program annually recognizes success, dedication and hard work of outstanding agriculturists in 53 counties and Fort Berthold in North Dakota and 10 counties in Minnesota. These honorees from this year’s list will be familiar to most of you:

Dean and Pam Aakre, Clay County, Minn. - Both NDSU graduates, Dean and Pam have been involved in agriculture their entire lives and, in addition to careers off the farm, continue to operate a small beef cow-calf farm near Rollag. Dean is 4-H youth development specialist with the Center for 4-H Youth Development.

Craig and Margie Askim, Mercer County - Craig, too, is an NDSU graduate and ANR Extension agent in Mercer County. In addition to being active in their community and as 4-H club leaders, Craig and Margie grow wheat and beans on a small fourth-generation family farm in Walsh County.

Kristi and Les Berdal, Nelson County - Just as Kristi has dual bachelor’s degrees—one from NDSU and one from UND—she has dual roles as FCS Extension agent in Nelson and Steele counties. In addition to careers and community volunteerism, she and her husband, Les, have raised sheep and registered Welsh ponies.

ElRoy and Carol Haadem, Burleigh County - ElRoy, NDSU graduate and former long-time ANR Extension agent in Burleigh County, and his wife, Carol, operate a small farm near Bismarck. They have sheep, an apple orchard and accommodations for high school rodeo horses and, through the years, provided opportunities for their children and area youth to raise sheep, hogs, beef and dairy cattle, and rabbits on their farm for 4-H projects.

Applause photoPlease join me in another round of applause for these outstanding agriculturists and Extension employees who are actively involved in their communities.

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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We are NDSU Extension Service: Organizational Learning (11/10/2015)

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts to highlight key information about our Extension organization’s culture. The focus of this post is organizational learning. Organizational learning is the process of creating, retaining and transferring knowledge within an organization. An organization improves over time as it gains experience which, in turn, creates knowledge. (Wikipedia) 

The NDSU Extension Service places strong emphasis on learning in the workplace, assisting all staff—county, area and state—to gain experience. To be successful, this learning and experience must be transferred to others within our organization and, subsequently, to those outside of the organization—the people we serve—in order for them to obtain value.

How do we accomplish this learning? Our Extension organization is very deliberate and spends a great amount of time and resources providing learning opportunities through a variety of methods. Mentoring county-based Extension agents, attending workshops and trainings, and encouraging participation in professional organizations are just a few of the methods used to encourage learning.  

Once learning takes place, is the environment such that reasonable risk-taking and innovation can occur to share what we have learned? What happens if something doesn’t work? We are all encouraged to try something new to actively engage the people we serve—our customers. Sometimes the tried and true method works best; however, with today’s changing environment we must try new ideas and techniques to share knowledge through transformational education to stay relevant. The risks of becoming stagnant are greater than trying something new.

What rewards do we receive for taking these risks? The obvious answer is the knowledge gained and satisfaction we receive from helping North Dakotans improve their quality of life. Our organization also recognizes and rewards good work through Program Excellence Awards, Ag Faculty/Staff excellence awards, and the Learn and Lead incentive program for field staff.

In addition to meetings, trainings, conferences, etc., Extension is fortunate to use listservs as a quick method of sharing information across the organization. Each of us are on multiple listservs pertinent to our role and location that can be used to target information to individuals who need that specific information. Prudent and targeted use of listservs is best, putting information in the mailboxes of only the colleagues to whom it pertains to not “clutter” up our system. The list of listservs is available in the Ag Info Center via the Extension Staff Directory.

As a result of all this learning, district directors often hear this from new staff: “There are so many good meetings, trainings and workshops; how am I supposed to fit them all in?” Well, in reality, you can’t; there are just too many opportunities. An individual has to be deliberate and focused in their learning. 

Focused learning to meet the needs of our clientele is not all we must strive for. We need to learn for ourselves to grow personally and professionally. Are you doing all you can to be a part of Extension’s organizational learning? 

Gerald Sturn, Southwest District Director

Next up: Empowerment

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Brenda Vertin earns certification and so can you (11/2/2015)

Brenda Vertin 2015Though we could address her now as Master Vertin, she prefers a simple “Brenda.” Brenda Vertin, administrative assistant with the Extension ANR assistant director and Southeast District director offices is one of only four NDSU staff members (and only one with Extension so far) who have obtained certification as Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Applause photoMaster. Brenda prepared for and passed tests in Excel, Access and Word. Certification takes effort and tech savviness, so please join me today in a round of applause for her.

If you want to explore MOS or MOS Master certification (there are two levels) for yourself, visit Some quick facts:

- This opportunity is available for all NDSU employees and county Extension support staff.

- There are a limited number of slots with Feb. 29, 2016 as the latest date that staff members can take tests at no cost to them or their department/office. After Feb. 29 exams will be $100 apiece.

- There are three steps on the path to certification:

  1. Pre-test using practice exam software that mirrors the actual testing environment (This can be done on your own computer.)
  2. Train (Face-to-face, printed and electronic options are available including several practice exams for each application.)
  3. Take your certification exam(s) to earn your certification(s) at the NDSU main campus in Fargo or NDSU Nursing at Sanford Health, 512 7th St. N., Bismarck. Extension will cover mileage expense to the nearest testing site for those not living in Fargo or Bismarck.

Matthew Chaussee, technical services manager with NDSU Finance and Administration, will be at Bismarck on Nov. 13 to provide training sessions and an initial round of testing for those interested. Space is limited, so to get more information and/or sign up, go to .

Questions about certification may be directed to Matt at or 701-231-9764.  

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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Work with volunteers? (10/30/2015)

Achieving the Extension Mission through Volunteers logoNDSU Extension Service values and greatly benefits from the assistance of volunteers not only with our 4-H youth development programs but other Extension relationships like Master Gardeners, and crop and livestock improvement associations. Consequently, district directors will support the registration of two agents per district in the online course “Achieving the Extension Mission Through Volunteers.” The six-week course that begins Jan. 18, 2016 takes a serious commitment but is worth the effort. Please see the video, course at a glance and overview for more information.

Rachelle Vettern, Extension leadership/volunteer development specialist, is one of several instructors from the North Central Region, and Todd Weinmann, Acacia Stuckle and Katelyn Hain, agents, were participants in the pilot offering last year and can give you feedback if you’d like to visit with them. To pursue registration fee support, please send a short paragraph describing your interest in the course to your district director by Thursday, Nov. 5. They will make selections so that registration can occur on Nov. 6. Specialists and other interested agents can self-register using the code NCRVS to receive a $150 regional discount on the $250 fee.

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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Marie Hvidsten recognized by IAPAL (10/28/2015)

Marie Hvidsten 2015Rural Leadership North Dakota (RLND) was host to the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership (IAPAL) annual meeting at Dickinson, N.D. the week of Oct. 12. IAPAL is a consortium of agricultural and rural leadership programs in the USA, Canada and several other countries. I’m pleased to announced that Marie Hvidsten, Extension RLND program director and rural leadership specialist, was recognized during the meeting with the 2015 Outstanding Leadership Program Director Award. According to Joe Waldrum, Executive Secretary of IAPAL, "Dr. Hvidsten received this honor for her vision, leadership and professional tenacity to establish and develop the Rural Leadership North Dakota program which has empowered the lives of so many established and emerging agricultural leaders in North Dakota. She is highly respected by her peers in rural leadership development around the globe and we are proud to recognize her significant talents and educational impacts with this prestigious award."

Applause photoAnd we are proud of you too, Marie.

Colleagues, please join me in a round of applause.

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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Wonder what ELT does? Apply for an administrative internship. (10/19/2015)

Lynette Flage, Ken Hellevang, Jodi Bruns, Julie Garden-Robinson, Charlie Stoltenow, Ron Wiederholt, Rita Ussatis, Mohamed Khan, Chris Augustin, Kevin Sedivec, Todd Weinmann, Lisa Pederson and Joe Zeleznik have all done a stint on the ELT as an administrative intern. They survived and even said they’d recommend it to others as a good learning experience. And the ELT found tremendous value in the fresh perspectives and insights these people brought to the team. If you are a full-time agent, or area or state specialist with a master’s or doctorate, and have five of more years with NDSU Extension, please consider if this is your time to apply. We’re taking applications for a Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2016 appointment now through Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Click here for a description of the program and application form.

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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