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Who We Are and What We Do


NDSU Extension Service is part of the Cooperative Extension System, a nationwide partnership composed of three distinct but related and coordinated bodies:

Who We Are and What We Do (Powerpoint)

  1. the federal partner, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA)
  2. the state partner, each state and several U.S. territories and possessions have land-grant institutions. There are 103 land-grant institutions.
  3. the county partner, elected or appointed boards in 2,900 county units.

North Dakota has six land-grant universities:

  1. North Dakota State University, Fargo
  2. United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck
  3. Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates
  4. Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, New Town
  5. Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt
  6. Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten

North Dakota has 53 counties. Stark and Billings counties share an Extension office in Dickinson and Fort Berthold has a separate office in New Town, so there are a total of 53 county Extension offices in the state.

In North Dakota, county commissioners, auditors, and Extension district directors cooperate to oversee county Extension personnel and budgets.

Extension Programming

The NDSU Extension Service educational programming consists of three program areas.

  1. Agriculture and Natural Resources
  2. Family and Community Wellness
  3. 4-H Youth Development

NDSU Extension Service employees need specific skills to be successful. A work team with input from many staff created a framework to identify and support the areas of expertise that the NDSU Extension Service employees need to do their jobs. Some refer to these as core competencies of successful agents.

Each area of expertise/competency is defined below:

  1. Communication
    The skill of listening; developing and conveying a clear, concise message appropriate for the audience; and gathering feedback.
  2. Technology
    The skill of using basic and innovative tools to effectively reach and teach our audiences, work and communicate effectively, management time and resources, and enhance our ability to find, evaluate and disseminate information.
  3. Program Development and Educational Design
    The skill to assess needs and issues, and develop, deliver and evaluate comprehensive learning experiences that help youth and adults enhance their lives and communities.
  4. Personal Development
    The skill of conducting oneself professionally; handling the work environment; managing time, resources and expenditures efficiently to accomplish the purpose of the organization.
  5. Organizational Management
    The skill of understanding all aspects of the organization and how to operate efficiently and effectively.
  6. Subject Matter
    The skill to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in a recognized discipline, and to understand and communicate the science and application as it relates to other disciplines.

NDSU Extension Service develops programs within ten program teams:

  1. 4-H Youth Development
  2. Crop Management
  3. Farm Business Management
  4. Horticulture and Forestry
  5. Human Development and Family Science
  6. Leadership and Civic Engagement
  7. Livestock Management
  8. Natural Resource Management
  9. Nutrition, Food Safety and Health
  10. Personal and Family Finance


Extension Staffing

The NDSU Extension Service is the outreach arm of North Dakota State University and is housed under the Vice President for Agriculture Affairs. See organizational structure below.

Organizational Structure - NDSU Extension Service Structure

A strength of the NDSU Extension Service is the blend of county, area and state staff to support programming.

Many Extension agents are employed full-time; however there are some who are employed part time and some who serve more than one county. County support staff are considered county employees rather than NDSU Extension employees. In addition, some counties have the opportunity to have an EFNEP agent or assistant and/or FNP agent or assistant which are funded with federal grant dollars. Their primary focus is nutrition education targeting economically disadvantaged youth and adults.

Area specialists are located throughout the state, many based at NDSU Research Extension Centers. These people have very focused areas of work/research.

State specialists at NDSU support programming across the state. State specialists are responsible for assessing the needs of North Dakotans and the emphasis coming from a national level. They also keep current with research in their field and complete their own research and publishing. All of this information is synthesized to help lead the program planning identified as critical by county staff.

State Leadership

Extension Program Leaders

  • Agriculture and Natural Resources - Charlie Stoltenow, Assistant Director
  • Family and Community Wellness - Lynette Flage - Assistant Director
  • 4-H Youth Development - Brad Cogdill, Chair, Center for 4-H Youth Development

    District Directors

    • East District - Kim Ruliffson
    • Central District - Ron Wiederholt
    • West District -  Jim Gray

    Extension Funding

    Extension cannot do its job without people, and the majority (about 85%) of the NDSU Extension Service’s budget goes toward staff salaries and wages. That means the rest (about 15%) goes to overall operating and equipment expense so staff have the tools to do their jobs.

    You will refer to the Extension Staff Directory often during your career. Go to the NDSU Extension Service home page on the web: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/ and click on the Directory. Do some browsing to become familiar with the site. 

    You will serve on a Program Team based on your subject matter expertise. After a few months of employment, you should visit with your supervisor about the appropriate team you feel best fits your line of work.

    Government agencies are too well known for speaking in acronyms, and Extension is no exception. Print out this list of Extension acronyms for future reference.

    NDSU Extension also has a number of special programs. You will become familiar with these over time. Two of the most significant are the Family Nutrition Program (FNP) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). The Federal Government offers grants to support low-income families in becoming more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthy eating choices.

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