Building Extension by Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

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Kim Kidwell, Dean of the College of ACES

Extension personnel facilitate the translation of many of the fantastic discoveries made at land-grant universities to people around the world. Oftentimes, this is the only way that this valuable information reaches people so they can make good decisions that improve the qualities of their lives. I believe Extension embodies the essence of the land-grant mission because this is where transformation happens.

Over the past six years, tremendous change has occurred in the Extension enterprise that has had dramatic consequences: some favorable – others not so favorable. The impact of Extension efforts in urban areas has improved dramatically in recent years, whereas efforts to support commercial agriculture have declined. We cannot be all things to all people. However, I am curious about what we are doing in Extension that is working well. I am also curious about the challenges, obstacles, and oversights. Ultimately, how can we adjust to improve visibility and impact?

We must navigate the gap between ACES discovery research and the translation of those research outcomes to communities. We have extraordinary researchers publishing in the most prestigious journals; yet, the transformative ability of this work is limited because few people outside of the scientific community are aware of these discoveries. We also have extraordinary Extension personnel performing magnificent work in our communities. However, very little of this work brings awareness to ongoing ACES research and teaching efforts. We need to close this gap and synergize our assets across the three aspects of our mission: Extension, teaching, and research.

If Extension 1.0 is the model that was in play in 2010, we are currently living into Extension 2.0. I propose we work together to develop Extension 3.0 in a way that allows us to close the loop among discovery, translation, and transformation efforts. Learning from our past, noticing what is working and what is not working in our current system, and adjusting to move forward to address concerns are ways we can evolve our Extension model into something that is enormously impactful. This will require our researchers to invest time and energy to support the translation of the outcomes of their work. It will take a collective effort across ACES and Extension to live into our purpose of transforming lives.

To accomplish this we may have to reshape how college and Extension personnel view each other in regards to living into the land-grant mission. Who is responsible for translating ACES research to citizens of the state and around the globe? How do we measure and assess impacts of our efforts? Do we have the appropriate mechanisms in place for acknowledging people for their contributions? Many questions that we have the power to answer are in play. The path forward must allow every employee to be in a situation where their contributions are valued and appreciated, and where accountability and acknowledgment pathways are well developed.

Please embrace the challenge of working with Associate Dean Czapar and myself to frame Extension 3.0. We are open to ideas about what it should look like and how to manifest it. I am certain of one thing: Extension will remain a vital part of the College of ACES. We cannot maximize our potential as a college of this nature without a vibrant Extension presence, and research is the foundation of effective Extension efforts. I look forward to working with you to create relationships among our research, teaching, and Extension enterprises as we build Extension 3.0