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Reflections on 2014 PILD Conference (4/24/2014)

Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) conference provides professional development in the area of public issues/policy and culminates in visits to our North Dakota congressional offices on Capitol Hill. I encourage experienced agents and specialists to consider this opportunity next year. Please take a moment to read the reflections from this year’s delegation.

PILD 2014 1SUE ISBELL, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development/Sioux County – “I would like to challenge other Extension Staff to step up and attend PILD. It was an opportunity to listen, learn and share. The networking with like-minded educators is very empowering and will help you to become a stronger educator for the people you serve. In listening to the dynamic speakers, a few of the key remarks that surface repeatedly was that it isn’t about you–it is about the people you serve, and that research-based information getting out to the people in a timely matter can truly make a difference in their lives.”

CHARLIE STOLTENOW, Assistant Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources – “While attending the PILD conference I heard a great quote, and a thought reaffirmed. The quote, ‘It’s not about giving back, it’s about giving more.’ This is from John Stewart, not the Comedy Central host, but a young man from North Carolina on an application to attend North Carolina State University. As we go through life, are we just trying to give back what we got from life or are we trying to give more? Remember the old camping axiom, leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. Are we making this world better because we were here? Are we a taker or a giver? The thought, Google will never replace Extension if we keep our focus on people, and not facts and figures. Extension cannot compete with Google in providing mountains of information as fast as possible. However, Google cannot compete with Extension in our ability to sort through the complexities of the seemingly simplest questions and provide our clients with researched-based information and recommendations. The key to our future success lies within our past core missions, establishing and maintaining relationships with people so we can help them when they need it.”

MOHAMED KHAN, Sugarbeet Specialist – “Building on Charlie’s comments, I want to provide a few additional thoughts. One of the speakers from NIFA (Robert Holland) highlighted the importance of Impact Reports which they use extensively to justify the request for funding Extension. ‘It’s not about giving back, it’s about giving more’ is the core of an Extension educator. We differentiate ourselves from other providers of information not by what we do and how we do it, but why we do it – to transform and improve the lives of people and their communities.”

BRENDA LANGERUD, Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences/Ramsey County – “The speakers were great, the workshops informative, the trips to Capitol Hill very well received, the weather was warm. What could make it better? That North Dakota shone! Our own Steve Stark gave an accurate, insightful and informative 90-minute presentation on the first 100 years of the Extension Service that flew by like it was 9 minutes. At its conclusion, he received a standing ovation and was mobbed by audience members asking questions and hopefully booking future presentations. North Dakota is not a place where we still travel by horse and buggy, where running water is a luxury or where it snows 10 months a year (granted this winter has been especially difficult). We do have the Internet and great universities and well-educated citizens. We do have a responsive, reliable and research-based Extension Service. At too many other past conferences, fellow attendees have glanced at our nametags, smirked then popped off some down-grading comment. And too often, we have accepted those smirks and comments. North Dakota, and especially its Extension Service are beyond good – we are great!”

PILD 2014 2PENNY NESTER, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources/Kidder County – PILD reaffirmed for me that, as Extension educators, we constantly try to enforce the concept of being proactive rather than reactive in every topic area we cover. From teaching kids to making smart health choices while young to recommending tree varieties that that will survive the North Dakota winters for continued enjoyment in the years to come, we try to educate people to make decisions today with the future in mind. Yet, we are still able to respond to reactive situations such as floods, blizzards or drought with relevant information and recommendations to our stakeholders. Attending PILD and other national meetings helps us, as educators, to know what is going on in the world around us and, in many cases, gives us an opportunity to be more proactive in educating our county and state stakeholders. The more proactive we are in ensuring that our organization is not only connecting with the people in our communities but also connecting with our leaders on a county, state and national level, the less reactive we will have to be in the future when funding becomes tight or some question the relevance of Extension surfaces. One theory that was discussed at the beginning of the PILD Conference was that everyone in Extension needs multipliers. These are people that spread the knowledge/information you provide. They might be the local coffee clique in the café or someone who shares your status update on Facebook. These people spread information to an audience with whom you may not have had contact. One goal that I now have from attending this conference is to identify these multipliers in my county and make sure I stay better connected with them. While many of the program speakers were terrific and inspirational at PILD, I received the most knowledge and ideas through networking with others during breaks and in the evening. While North Dakota is definitely in the limelight on a national level due to the oil boom and recent national statistics and media, we are the envy of other state’s Extension Services because we have not faced recent budget cuts, staff reorganization or reductions like many states. I believe it is important that we reinforce the fact that the NDSU Extension Service is thriving because of the good job we do connecting with our stakeholders and meeting the needs of the state, not because ‘all of us are getting big salaries and budgets from the oil boom’ like people from other states may believe. We have a great opportunity to be proactive in the messages we give on a national level – let’s take advantage of that limelight!”

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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