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Working with Differences

The workplace is composed of many people who are different from us, and being able to work with diversity is important for everyone. Diversity can mean a variety of  things to different people.  Diversity can be different perspectives, ideas, culture, religion, personalities, physical abilities and much more. We are all different, and these differences lead to creativity and innovation in the workplace.

To learn more about the importance of diversity and civil rights, review the NDSU Extension Civil Rights Plan. More information is available in the For Employee - Diversity and Civil Rights section on the NDSU Extension website and on the NDSU Disability Services website.

NDSU Diversity Council

Mission Statement

"Increase the openness to and understanding of differences through meaningful education and experience"


 "Promote a system that values differences in meaningful ways”:

  • By supporting healthy, thriving and culturally-diverse communities through our educational programs.
  • By improving the diversity profile of our employees at all levels and across the state.
  • By nurturing the understanding and skill development of employees and volunteers in areas of diversity.

Diversity Council Role

  • Determine a process to meet the goal and objectives.
  • Meet quarterly via Skype, conference call or videoconference.
  • Promote diversity education for the entire organization through trainings, speakers and experiences, for example, the Navigating Differences program for district and specialist meetings.
  • Serve as a sounding board for the county civil rights review process.
  • Establish a subcommittee that will solicit and select diversity initiative grants that offices/departments can use for internal and external educational programming.
  • Work with EDGO to include a training component in new staff orientation.

Current Team Members

1 Year Term2 Year Term3 Year Term

Megan Ness Ditterick
Specialist and Coordinator
EFNEP & Family Nutrition Program

Naeem Kalwar
Area Specialist, Soil Health
Landon Research Extension Center

Cindy Dunn
Administrative Assistant
Sioux County

Randy Grueneich
Extension Agent, Ag and Natural Resources
Barnes County

Ron Wiederholt
Southeast District Director

Trisha Jessen
Extension Agent, Family Nutrition Program
Ward and Renville counties

Vanessa Hoines
Extension Agent, Family and Community Wellness
Morton County

Randy Mehlhoff
Langdon Research Extension Center

Todd Weinmann
Extension Agent, Ag and Natural Resources - Horticulture
Cass County

Responsibilities for Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities in Extension Programs

Notice in Program Announcements

Please be sure that your announcements about programs include not only the standard equal opportunity language (NDSU is an equal opportunity institution) but also an invitation for individuals with disabilities who need accommodation to notify you prior to the program. Specify a date by which individuals should notify you so that you have adequate time to make the appropriate arrangements. For example: Requests for accommodations related to disability should be made to (your name) one week before scheduled class. (Use this when it is a series of classes.)


One of the most likely requests would be for a sign language interpreter. Since interpreters are in short supply, it's a good idea to check around your community to see if there are interpreters available and, if not, what others in the community know about availability in the surrounding area. ASI Professional Associates in Fargo provides interpreter services and may be able to identify individuals in your area who provide this service (701-241-7847 or 800-930-9424 - pager). Other examples of how staff can accommodate the needs of the public include use of a public address system, providing printed materials in both regular font and large font for individuals to self select based on their own needs, etc.

Providing sign language interpretation and other accommodations is required by law and not optional. However, there are often alternatives to how the accommodation is provided. Handling requests for accommodation is often a public relations matter; that is, the way the requests are handled may be more important than how the accommodation is made. If you have questions when responding to these requests, please contact disability services or contact Bunnie Johnson-Messelt, Disability Services Director,  at 231-7198 (v), 800-366-6889 (Relay ND) or email Bunnie.Johnson-Messelt@ndsu.edu.

Accessibility to Educational Offerings

Please be sure that your educational offerings, i.e. meetings, activities and events are conducted in locations that are handicap accessible. This may require renting facilities that are handicap accessible instead of holding educational offerings in facilities that are not only because the facility is free of charge. To do this you may need to charge a registration fee, request meeting rental funds via the county budget, ask for sponsorships, etc.

Promoting and Marketing Educational Offerings

To ensure that all residents are aware of the educational offerings you provide, be sure that you promote your meetings, activities and events with all aspects of diversity in mind.  For example:  Agricultural mailing lists have traditionally only included men in the case of married farmers.  These mailing lists should be updated to include the first names of both husband and wife for meeting notices.

Expanding the number of locations that promotional posters are distributed for educational offerings is also important. For example: The distribution list should include low-income housing, Head Start, WIC offices and other locations that individuals who have limited financial resources reside or frequent if the program content addresses issues pertaining to that audience. 

Alternative Formats

You may get requests to provide information in alternative formats, for example, a written piece on audiotape for a person with a visual impairment. Agriculture Communication is prepared to help you with such requests. Call Agriculture Communication at 701-231-7881 to make arrangements in advance and before you make a commitment to provide information in a particular format or by a particular date. Certainly, we have a responsibility to provide the information within a reasonable period of time, but what's reasonable may vary with the request.

Public Notice

Print the following statement and keep it handy as a reference for the next meeting you organize. "Requests for accommodations related to disability should be made to (your name) two weeks before scheduled class." If you are only offering one session, simply use the date you want as the deadline.


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