Staff FYI News

Internal Staff Information

For Your Information is an internal newsletter for Illinois Extension staff and Extension stakeholders. The monthly newsletter includes the latest communication, technology, and programmatic information, as well as highlights of staff-related accomplishments and announcements.


    May 2023

    Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson
    Associate Dean and Director of Extension

    Thank you to all who were able to join in the University of Illinois Strategic Planning Town Hall on Tuesday, May 9. Your interest in our shared and collaborative process was greatly appreciated, and the questions and comments were insightful and informative to setting Illinois Extension on a course for success. 

    For everyone, the key message is participate! There are many avenues to having your voice heard, your ideas considered, and your preferred future for Illinois Extension realized. In the coming weeks and months, take time to engage by e-mailing the steering committee, completing the survey, and/or participating in one of the strategic planning activities that can be found in the Strategic Planning Guidebook. Initiate an activity – you don’t have to wait for someone else to do this. If you have questions or want guidance, reach out to a member of the steering committee.

    Please take a look at the Illinois Extension Strategic Planning website. This is where you will find the survey and tools to facilitate your being part of Illinois Extension’s process for vision, mission, and priority setting. Encourage your colleagues, stakeholders, and even those unfamiliar with Extension to participate. Let’s boldly dream together about our vibrant pathway forward!  

    Inclusive Extension

    Camaya Wallace Bechard
    Assistant Director, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

    Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. "Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia), and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).” The commemorative designation was introduced in Congress in 1977. The original Bill proposed a proclamation for a week-long recognition and celebration. More than a decade later, Congress passed the Public Law Statute in 1992 that annually assigns May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 

    The contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States are continual, and this month provides opportunities for us to learn more about people’s experiences, challenges, and impacts. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has focused on ways to share the American Story through the voices of Asian Pacific Americans.

    Jewish American Heritage Month: May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, and during this month, we celebrate the integral impacts on culture, history, military, science, government, and more. Jewish leaders in the United States proposed resolutions in the Senate and the House for designating a month that specifically acknowledges the contributions and history of Jewish people. In 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed May Jewish American Heritage Month. 

    While a month-long designation cannot fully capture the breadth of the experiences or the legacies of Jewish Americans, it provides a time for reflection and ways to actively engage with our diverse communities. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides a wealth of resources including videos explaining the origins of antisemitism and the continuous fight for justice and inclusion.

    Navigating Difference: Navigating Difference Cultural Competency training provides an open and welcoming environment for all learners to engage in discussion, reflections, and activities that support an inclusive work environment. Trainers previously offered workshops at the unit level. Since all units completed the onsite or Zoom training, this year we have shifted to regional trainings for new or returning staff members. Unit supervisors, state supervisors, and support staff, please make note of staff members who haven’t completed the training and have them sign up once those registrations are open.

    • Region 2 training is scheduled for May 22, 23, and 30 at the Knox County Extension Office. Registration is required.
    • Region 1 training is scheduled for June 12, 13, and 14 at the Will County Extension Office. Registration is now open.
    • Region 3. We are working on dates for a fall training. 

    Quarterly DEIA Webinar: The recording is available for the April 18 webinar, Accommodating Individuals with Visible and Non-Visible Disabilities. If you are interested in more professional development opportunities, the Office of Access and Equity has a list of training including Disability Etiquette on their IL Media Space Channel. Recordings from the 2023 Access Illinois Symposium are also available. 

    A Few Upcoming Dates in June:

    *Dates retrieved from UIUC and NIH Calendars.
    *This list is not exhaustive. Please send suggestions to


    Marketing and Communications

    Bridget Lee-Calfas
    Director of Marketing and Communications

    New State and Regional Marketing and Communications Content: This week’s edition includes press releases about economic well-being, Find Food Illinois, rain garden stewardship, and container gardens; orchard grass, financial balance and carpenter bee blogs; plenty of new June events; Downtown Restoration and Let’s Talk Money graphics packages; farmdoc, 4-H, and Good Growing video content, and much more! 

    Statewide Awareness Campaign: The campaign is off to a great start with digital ad numbers outperforming national averages for engagement. Be on the lookout for social media and display ads, YouTube ads, and coming soon, a customizable brochure and yard signs. 

    Farm Progress Show: Planning has begun for the 2023 Farm Progress Show. If you have been involved in the past or want to join the group working on this year’s show, please reach out to Bridget Lee-Calfas and Russ Higgins

    Remaining Wednesday Wake Ups for May 2023:

    • May 17 | 8:30 AM | SNAP-Ed Marketing Requirements
      The federal SNAP grant has many unique requirements, including how we market the program. Beth Peralta will offer a comprehensive review of what's allowed (and not allowed) when featuring SNAP-Education work. 
    • May 24 | 8:30 AM | Paid Marketing Campaigns
      There are times that programs would benefit from a paid marketing campaign. Erin Knowles discusses the types, processes, and benefits of paid campaigns. 
    • May 31 | 8:30 AM | Creating PSAs and Radio Scripts (note change of topic)
      Radio is a great way to reach audiences wherever they live, work, and play. Todd Gleason, Extension farm broadcaster, will give tips for creating Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and radio scripts. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from Extension's broadcast expert.


    Information Technology

    James Hazzard
    Director of Information Technology

    We’ve hired a new tech in Rockford to cover the Northwest portion of the state. Please welcome Jared Schade to Extension. Jared has been working with teachers and educational technology for the last five years in the Rockford School District. Jared started on May 1 in the Rockford office, and he’ll be on help desk soon fixing all kinds of fun technical problems, so please answer the phone when he calls! 

    A quick reminder that the Skype for Business to Teams voice transition was moved from May 17 to July 10 (thereabouts). Normal voice telephone calls can still be made through Skype for Business up until Extension is migrated the second week of July. 

    Extension IT policy is getting an update. We are adding language to the policy to enforce a one laptop per FTE as a supported device and make it clear that laptops are expected to be transported to and from work environments for hybrid or remote workers. We will no longer support a laptop at each location for workers with multiple work sites. In addition, we will be updating the policy to reflect minor changes in the technology language coming from campus since the policy is several years old now. 

    Our network refresh project is under way. Be on the lookout for your local tech as they visit our offices to install brand new, high-speed network equipment in your offices to improve service and connectivity. There will be some short network outages as we update the equipment, office by office, so as they say in construction – Pardon our dust!


    4-H Youth Development

    Lisa Diaz
    Assistant Dean and Director of Illinois 4-H

    4-H Robotics Team Named New World Champions: Ctrl-Z robotics team of Champaign County was named the new world champions at the FIRST World Robotics Championships in Houston last month! Metal Cow Robotics of McLean County, Binary Bullets of Knox County, and Super Scream Bros of Macon County also qualified to compete at this international level.

    4-H Needs Your Help at the State Fair: We are looking for volunteer judges and project assistants who are eager to interact with Illinois youth and provide a great State Fair experience for them. This event will have face to face judging, and we would love for you to consider assisting us this year August 11 through 13 (Friday through Sunday) in the Orr Building, an air-conditioned building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Apply online. We hope to see you at the fair!

    4-H Celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Celebrate with the youth in your life with fun, family-friendly activities like a 30 Days Activity Challenge, educational worksheets, and more! Check out these resources


    Agriculture and AgriBusiness

    Travis Burke
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    No report


    Community and Economic Development

    Anne Silvis
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has funded 17 Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (TCTAC) across the country to help underserved communities access state and federal funding for environmental infrastructure improvements. The CED team, as part of the University of Minnesota TCTAC, will receive $750,000 over five years to form and coordinate a technical assistance center in Illinois. The focus will be on helping rural and underserved communities, including those identified as environmental justice communities by USEPA and those experiencing coal power plant closures. 

    This summer, CED team members working on the project will conduct a needs assessment in partnership with Illinois EPA and other state agencies involved in environmental infrastructure funding for communities. In the fall, we will hire a grant-funded community development professional to design and implement programming on topics and in communities identified during the needs assessment. Programming might include helping communities navigate federal grant application systems, providing guidance on community engagement, leading community-specific strategic planning, and helping communities secure funds to address legacy pollution and invest in clean energy technologies. 

    As part of the University of Minnesota TCTAC, CED will work with Extension and non-profit partners in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio to unlock federal funding support for environmental and energy projects in remote, rural, and disadvantaged communities in our states. Each state will establish “one-stop shops” for grant and planning assistance. 

    If your unit is one with a USEPA environmental justice community, or is part of the coal power plant transit, we will likely be in touch. If you would like to discuss this project or how your communities might become involved, please contact Lisa Merrifield, community development specialist for sustainable community planning,


    Family and Consumer Sciences

    Jennifer McCaffrey
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    Are you following us on social?Did you know the FCS team has a Facebook page called Around the Table? If your unit doesn’t follow this Facebook page, they should check it out. This is an excellent resource about families, finances, food, and health. In May, to support mental health awareness month, the Family Life team will post frequently to provide support, resources, and education. Feel free to share any Around the Table posts with your local Extension pages.

    Hot Topic Alert: Spring is the time of year where garden produce arrives and kicks off our official food preservation season. Did you know that the nutrition and wellness team has an abundance of resources on the food page related to storing and preserving that bountiful harvest? This is a great resource for those office phone calls for people who are canning. This is also a great resource for Master Gardeners to print fact sheets. Just as a reminder, Master Gardeners are not approved to teach food preservation. For your food preservation needs, please reach out to our nutrition and wellness educators. 

    SNAP Ed 3 Year Impact WebinarSNAP-Ed provides community-based nutrition education and systems changes for individuals and families who are SNAP-eligible. Join us for an overview and update of Illinois SNAP-Ed programming from the past 3 years, including recent program impacts and our return on investment estimates. Learn more about how you can provide input on future program priorities.

    This webinar is intended for local, regional, and state SNAP-Ed partners, state SNAP-Ed staff, and community, state, and national stakeholders, policymakers, and public health program advocates.


    Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy

    Shibu Kar
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    No report.


    Administrative Updates

    On May 17 at 11 a.m., Illinois SNAP-Ed will hold an online webinar presentation to highlight three years of impact. The presentation entitled “Illinois SNAP-Ed Impacts” will highlight the results and findings of work conducted over the past three years, including an evaluation of educational programs, SNAP-Ed partnerships, return on investment estimates, the statewide EAT.MOVE.SAVE social marketing campaign, and the economic and social benefits of the program.

    ACES Director of Advancement Operations Named: In an April 18, 2023 mass mail message from Kimberly Meenen Bishop, ACES assistant dean for advancement, it was announced that Amanda Shoemaker will join the College of ACES as the director of advancement operations on Wednesday, May 10. Amanda will be responsible for managing the College advancement infrastructure, including supervision of the alumni engagement coordinator and assistant director of stewardship and donor relations. She will lead the constituent engagement programs, gift fund reviews, advancement communications, overall stewardship and donor relations activities, and annual giving functions. 

    Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Named: In his April 19 mass mail message, Chancellor Robert J. Jones announced the appointment of John Coleman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts (CLS) at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, as the next vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost. His appointment in the role begins on July 19 and the appointment is pending approval by the Board of Trustees. He will hold the title of “designate” until that time.

    Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Announced: On April 24, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Dr. Manjit K. Misra will serve as the next director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Previously Misra served as a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University and the director of the university’s Seed Science Center. 

    Registration open for ACES Family Academies: The College of ACES Alumni Association is again welcoming alumni participants and their families for the ACES Family Academies.

    Directory Updates:

    • Lexi Palacios, Office Support Assistant – Unit 13
    • Valerie Nicolini, EPC, ANR – Unit 13
    • Abbi Littell, EPC, FCS – Unit 13
    • Guy Kumpi, CW, EFNEP – Unit 13
    • Alexis Black, EPC, 4-H – Unit 19
    • Chrissy Caudle, Office Support Assistant – Unit 21
    • Michelle Hoffman, Office Support Assistant – Unit 21
    • Patty Edwards, CW, SNAP-Ed – Unit 21
    • Cheralee Vohlken, EPC, 4-H – Unit 23
    • Amanda Cunningham, EPC, 4-H, Unit 18 (Christian County)
    • Kristen VanDeVelde, Transition from Office Support to EPC 4-H, Unit 7 (Henry and Stark counties)



    Our deepest sympathy is extended to Wil Bingman, Extension IT analyst, on the passing of his father, Ernest Ray “Ernie” Bingman, on April 18. Read the obituary for Ernie Bingman. Expressions of sympathy may be shared with Wil at 1008 E. Willard Drive, Urbana, IL  61801.

    Condolences are extended to Dr. Michelle Cox, county director for Unit 3, on the recent loss of her father, Mr. Carl E. Banks. A celebration of life service was held on Friday, May 5 with visitations an hour prior. Read the obituary for Carl E. Banks. Notes or cards of sympathy may be sent to Michelle at the Lake or McHenry County offices.

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