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NDSU Extension Offers Rewarding Career Opportunities

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Grand Forks County Extension agent Donna Bernhardt, right, helps a woman make baked sweet potato fries during a cooking class for new Americans. Grand Forks County Extension agent Donna Bernhardt, right, helps a woman make baked sweet potato fries during a cooking class for new Americans.
Williams County Extension agent Warren Froelich takes a soil sample. Williams County Extension agent Warren Froelich takes a soil sample.
A youngster is getting a little help from Benson County Extension agent Scott Knoke in dissecting an owl pellet during a 4-H project day event. A youngster is getting a little help from Benson County Extension agent Scott Knoke in dissecting an owl pellet during a 4-H project day event.
Mountrail County Extension agent Jim Hennessy, center, works with youth attending Survivor Camp at the Western 4-H Camp near Washburn, N.D. Mountrail County Extension agent Jim Hennessy, center, works with youth attending Survivor Camp at the Western 4-H Camp near Washburn, N.D.
Steve Sagaser (center), a Grand Forks County Extension agent, leads a class for adults on container gardening. Steve Sagaser (center), a Grand Forks County Extension agent, leads a class for adults on container gardening.
The NDSU Extension Service is looking for job applicants with a desire to help others solve problems and improve their lives.

Looking for a job? Give the North Dakota State University Extension Service a try.

“If you like working with people and ideas, Extension is for you,” says Barnes County Extension agent Ellen Bjelland, who joined the Extension Service in 1985. “You will find meaning and satisfaction in providing people with information they can use to improve the quality of their lives.”

The NDSU Extension Service has agents who serve all of North Dakota’s 53 counties and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Extension agents work with local groups to identify needs, then develop community-based learning programs to address those needs.

While Extension is working to fill some of those positions now, it likely will continue to have job openings for years to come because of historical retirement levels among its agents, according to Extension Director Duane Hauck. A study found that 36 percent of North Dakota’s counties have Extension agents who will be eligible to retire in the next five years.

“We encourage people with degrees in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development and community development to apply for a job with Extension,” Hauck says.

The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor of science degree. Applicants also should have a desire to work with people in real-life situations to help them solve their problems and improve their lives, says Gerald Sturn, district Extension director in Bismarck.

However, the skills people need to be successful in Extension work go well beyond training in subject matter, so NDSU Extension developed an agents-in-training program that pairs trainees with experienced agents.

“These skills are unique to Extension work and are best learned by working directly with an experienced Extension agent,” Hauck says.

“The agent-in-training position was invaluable to me because it allowed me to enter a county of my own with the knowledge of how things work in an Extension office, which can be quite complex,” says Andy Johnson, who was hired as a Steele County Extension agent in December 2008 after completing the agent-in-training program.

Extension administrators feel so strongly about the value of this program that they request funding from the North Dakota Legislature for five agent-in-training positions. The 2009 Legislature funded one position, so Extension is asking for the other four in the 2011 session.

Extension also is asking the Legislature to fund five summer internships. Hauck says the internships are a good way for college students entering their senior year to experience Extension, which, in turn, could be an effective recruiting tool for Extension.

Great benefits, such as health insurance, the ability to accumulate vacation and sick leave, and tuition breaks for NDSU employees and their children also make Extension a very good place to work, agents say.

Variety is one of the things Kurt Froelich, a 25-year veteran of the NDSU Extension Service, likes best about his job.

“It never ever is the same from day to day,” says the Stark-Billings County Extension agent. “There are days that require professional attire, and then the next might require other attire to work in the field.”

Newer agents say Extension allows them to help others while giving them opportunities for personal growth.

“The job fits me because it is ever-changing and challenges me to learn new things, develop new skills and work with people,” says Andrea Bowman, a Bowman County Extension agent for almost six years.

“I get to work with people of all ages, and I get to see a lot of the mysteries people encounter,” says Sheldon Gerhardt, a Logan County Extension agent since July 2008. “I’ve had snakes, insects, purple soybeans, and diseased plants and trees come into the office. These are the things that excite people, and they keep me interested as well.”

Some agents have left with the idea of changing careers but have returned to Extension.

Michelle Effertz was a Ward County Extension agent from 1991 to 1999, then left to go back to college for a master’s degree in psychology.

“At the time, I hadn’t planned to come back to Extension, but after working several other places, I realized that this felt more like home,” says Effertz, a McLean County Extension agent for the past three years.

Dwain Barondeau, who has spent his entire 20-year career as a Hettinger County Extension agent, says he chose to stay in Extension because he has been able to make a difference in people’s lives in positive ways.

“I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” he adds.

To learn more about a career in Extension, visit http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/careers/.


NDSU Agriculture Communication - Dec. 15, 2010

Source:Duane Hauck, (701) 231-8944, duane.hauck@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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