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.


    November 2023

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

    During this time of expressing thanks, sharing gratitude, and recognizing others for the gifts they offer, I want to acknowledge each of you for being the heart and soul of University of Illinois Extension. We are at our very best when we work together, lift each other up, and come together in celebration of our impact with those we serve.      

    Several initiatives — for which I am grateful for the many contributions across all of Illinois Extension — continue to be at the forefront of our work. 

    • Proposed mission and value statements as part of our strategic planning process continue to be developed and will need your review and input. 
    • Connection with external stakeholders is planned for December to receive additional feedback and perspectives from a variety of individuals and groups, including volunteers. Watch for announcements in the new year about updates and additional ways to engage. 
    • Recommendations from the Extension as a Preferred Workplace task force are being addressed with three key items recently being implemented and more to come. 
    • Our Doris Kelley Christopher Illinois Extension Center is moving from the planning into the bidding phase. Further details and information about progress will be shared soon. 
    • The University of Illinois Extension Academy will host its inaugural class with 15 Extension Faculty Specialists from the College of ACES in the Spring 2024 semester.

    There is much for which we can be grateful! During a time of chaos and uncertainty, take a moment to give appreciation to someone who you might not ordinarily express this to. Spend time in thanksgiving during this holiday season.


    Inclusive Extension

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

    Heritage Month:
    November is National Native American Heritage Month. This month, we honor the rich and diverse traditions of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and indigenous nations. We also embrace and celebrate the vast contributions while simultaneously recognizing a history shaped by land dispossession, violence-back treaties, forced assimilation, and systemic discrimination. NNAHM provides an opportunity for us, as a part of a land grant institution, to reflect on the work we do on these lands in Illinois. It gives us a chance to examine how we may create intentional goals that support diverse communities throughout the state. 

    Efforts to recognize the significant impact Native Americans made on the establishment and growth of the United States began in the early 20th century. Red Fox James and Dr. Arthur C. Parker were instrumental in these efforts. Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and Indian rights advocate, informally rode across the country to get approval for a day that honors Native Americans. Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Cattaraugus Seneca and director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to designate a day for the “First Americans.” The Congress of the American Indian Association formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day at an annual meeting in 1915, and President G.H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month.

    As we celebrate, the theme for this year’s NNAHM at the U.S. Department of Interior – Indian Affairs is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” There are resources available on past themes. Learn more about NNAHM and Red Shawl Day.

    Unit Annual Civil Rights Report:
    Each year, units complete an annual report that includes inclusion goals progress, non-discriminatory practices, REG council and volunteers, 4-H DEIA activities, and public notification efforts. Units report on activities for the year. 

    All-Staff Annual Civil Rights Compliance Training: 
    The annual training is available as a course through Learn @ Illinois Extension. The course will be open from Oct. 2 to Dec. 4. All Illinois Extension staff members are required to complete the course. Once you have completed the course, download and save your certificate for your unit or office civil rights files.  

    DEIA Organizational Survey: 
    If you haven’t already, please block off 15 minutes on your calendar between now and December 12 to complete the DEIA organizational survey. The survey is open and ready for all Illinois Extension staff members to participate. Your input matters as you implement your inclusion goals, work within your communities, establish connections in your offices and teams, and help build an organizational culture of belonging. The survey is anonymous and voluntary and takes 15 minutes or less. Complete the survey.

    Quarterly Webinar:
    Digital Equity and Digital Inclusion| Dec. 5, at 3 p.m. | Zoom

    A Few Dates in December:
    12/1 – World AIDS Day
    12/1 - 12/31 – Universal Human Rights Month 
    12/3 - 12/24 – Advent (Catholicism, Christianity, Episcopalianism)
    12/7 - 12/15 – Chanukah (Judaism)
    12/8 – Bodhi Day (Buddhism)
    12/8 – Immaculate Conception (Catholicism) 
    12/10 – Human Rights Day 
    12/12 – First Day of Masa’il – Questions (Bahá'í)
    12/21 - 1/1 – Yule (Wicca)
    12/22 – Asara B’Tevet (Judaism)
    12/25 – Christmas (Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Episcopalianism)
    12/26 - 01/01 – Kwanzaa (Interfaith, Africa-American) 
    12/31 – First Day of Sharaf Honour (Bahá'í)

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


    Strategy, Planning, and Implementation

    Amanda Cole
    Strategy, Planning, and Implementation Assistant Director

    Strategic Plan: October and November were busy months in relation to the Strategic Plan. During those two months, a Townhall Meeting for all staff occurred, listening sessions with the county directors and a meeting with Extension Leadership Team. The steering committee and subcommittees have been analyzing all the feedback received in relation to the proposed mission statement options and values, as well as processing of priorities that the survey identified.

    The next big meeting planned is a Townhall Meeting for Stakeholders, Tuesday, December 5, 2023, from 10 to 11 a.m. Please help promote this opportunity with stakeholder groups you work with.

    Annual Conference: It was great to catch up and see so many of you at this year’s annual conference in Springfield. I want to give a special thank you to Dr. Camaya Wallace Bechard, Bianca Bautista, Laquitsha Bejoile-Hayes, Kathryn Dombek, Susan Glassman, Liz Repplinger, and Sarah Vogel for serving on the DEIA panel discussion at annual conference and for allowing me to be part of it by helping to spread the word on the amazing work you are doing around the state of Illinois in relation to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.  


    Marketing and Communications

    Bridget Lee-Calfas
    Director of Marketing and Communications

    New State and Regional Marketing and Communications Content  
    Get the latest press releases, blogs, website events, email and newsletters, webinars, internal communications, info sheets, news hits, and social media assets. 

    Judy Mae Bingman Retirement 
    Judy will be retiring at the end of this semester, with her last official in-office day on December 1. If you have lingering web content projects, please be in touch immediately with Judy to reconcile those and please join my team in celebrating her long career with Illinois Extension. 

    Annual Report Fall Training 
    Need to revisit the recent trainings on writing, design, and data usage? Review the videos and other resources now.

    New Issue: Gardeners Corner
    Check out the Extension horticulture team's collection of new, seasonal gardening articles! We email Gardeners Corner materials to all horticulture and MarCom staff. A public email went to all GC subscribers, including Master Gardeners, on November 6. Get digital graphics and a printable flyer in the GC Winter Marketing Toolkit.

    Unit Translation Services
    Extension's state translation specialist can provide referral and project coordination for any Extension translation or interpretation need – whether local, regional, or statewide – and supports state-level Spanish translation projects. Learn more about requesting assistance for language access needs on the translation services webpage.


    Information Technology

    James Hazzard
    Extension Information Technology Director

    There’s a new piece of malware making the rounds in a very sneaky fashion. Do not install OneStart, OneLaunch, or OneBar on your Extension computers. Often, they try to piggyback onto your computer through hidden checkboxes in a browser page. Don’t fall for it! If you have installed OneStart accidentally, your computer will be flagged by UofI’s malware scanner CrowdStrike Falcon, and you’ll be getting a call soon.

    Now is a good time to make sure your staff profile on the website is up to date. Make sure you keep your keywords up-to-date and be sure you’re visible in the right group if you’ve changed titles or units this year.


    Community and Economic Development

    Anne Silvis
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    On Sept. 29, the Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security officially adopted the 2023 Illinois Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan allows Illinois communities and organizations access to hazard mitigation funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This plan was prepared over the past 19 months by Extension CED Team members, Illinois State Water Survey staff, and several graduate students.

    The CED team members, Zach Kennedy, Carrie McKillip, Russell Medley, and Anne Silvis, used a participatory planning process, in partnership with the Prairie Research Institute Water Survey staff’s modeling and analytical skills, to develop the plan that provides the framework for mitigation efforts across Illinois for the next five years. The successful completion of this plan illustrates the CED team’s expertise in practical planning processes and their ability to coordinate a large-scale data-gathering process and community engagement to develop plan goals, objectives, and action steps. 

    The updated plan addresses new FEMA requirements to review the impact of climate change on the state, as well as an in-depth look at the impact of disasters on vulnerable populations throughout the state. The plan incorporates an enhanced state profile and organizes the state into four distinct regions. Each regional profile includes demographic and economic data, as well as climate and geology information. These regional profiles will allow local jurisdictions to compare their areas to the immediate surrounding area instead of the state as a whole.

    The opportunity to develop this plan stemmed from the team’s work on local multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plans. CED Educator Carrie McKillip shares, “After the floods in 2008, we began working with local county emergency managers to develop hazard mitigation plans since, at the time, very few existed in the state. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires that any jurisdiction wanting to apply for mitigation funding must have a FEMA-approved Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan in place, and most of our counties did not.” According to McKillip, the state must also have a FEMA-approved Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan for the local plans to identify local mitigation actions. The final plan can be found on the IEMA-OHS website under the mitigation section.


    Family and Consumer Sciences

    Jennifer McCaffrey
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    The 89th Annual National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences Conference was held in Providence, RI. Illinois FCS educators were recognized nationally amongst their peers for their excellence in the field. The 2023 award winners include:

    National Winners

    • Communications Internet Education Technology Team AwardFeeding My Baby from Cradle to Table. First Place National and First Place Central Region winner. First place National and First Place Central Region winner. Team members include Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educators Jenna Smith, Laura Barr (retired), Kristin Bogdonas, Mary Liz Wright, and Chelsey Byers, Extension Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences.

    The team created the Feeding My Baby from Cradle to Table website, which provides research-based content for parents who want more detailed information regarding what, when, and how to feed their infant solid foods in an easily accessible format.

    • Florence Hall AwardNEAFCS Leadership Experience Program DevelopmentSecond Place National winner. Lisa Peterson, Nutrition and Wellness Educator as part of a national team

    Lisa was part of a national Mentoring and Leadership Committee established in 2019. The goal of this committee was to encourage and equip members for future leadership roles. The group developed a leadership development program, the Leadership Experience, to build more confident FCS professionals. The program is now in its third year with its biggest class of new FCS professionals and mentors to help guide them. 

    • Innovation in Programming Award, The Leadership Experience: Creating New LeadersThird Place National Winner. Lisa Peterson, Nutrition and Wellness Educator as part of a national team

    The Leadership Experience found an innovative way to help newer FCS Extension professionals grow through training on personal and leadership skills in the areas of self, community, career, and NEAFCS leadership. 

    Regional Winners

    • Communications Television/Video Team Award, Illinois Deer Donation ProgramRecipe Videos, First Place Central Region winners. Team members include SNAP-Ed Educators Meredith Probst and Michelle Fombelle and Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator Caitlin Mellendorf.
    • Communications Television/Video Team AwardNo Matter How You Slice Them, Apples Are a Fall Favorite. Second place Central Region winner. The team included Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educators Susan Glassman, Lisa Peterson, and Liz Smith, Marketing and Communications Marketing Project Manager. 
    • Community Partnership Team AwardWorking Together to Walk Wock Lake. Third Place Central Regional winner. Team members included Lisa Peterson, Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator, Jessica Jaffry, Jersey County 4-H Program Coordinator, and Cassie O'Connell, Marketing and Communications Program Coordinator. 
    • Innovation in Programming AwardCookin' in an Instant. Third Place Central Region winner, Caitlin Mellendorf, Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator. 

    Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy

    Shibu Kar
    Assistant Dean and Program Leader

    NREE team continues the Clean Water Conservation Webinar Series in partnership with Illinois American Water. The webinar series is primarily intended for residents in the Illinois American Water service area.

    We are hiring an Extension Watershed Outreach Associate (Water Quality), who will have coordination and outreach program delivery responsibilities for phosphorus-priority watersheds as outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Management Plan and support water quality educational programs. 

    Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Career Opportunities

    • IISG is hosting a 2024 Knauss fellow, Samantha Garcia, a University of Illinois master’s candidate in natural resources will have the opportunity to be immersed in international policy in the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement. Knauss fellows spend a year in Washington D.C. applying their scientific knowledge and experiences to policy and public administration. 

    The Knauss fellowship is a one-year paid opportunity in Washington D.C. for current and recent graduates from advanced degree programs (MS, PhD, JD) to apply their scientific knowledge and experiences to policy and public administration. The deadline for applications for the 2025 fellowship cohort is February 15, 2024.

    • IISG is seeking a new coastal resilience specialist who will develop a program that includes technical guidance, extension, and applied research related to physical coastal resilience along the southern Lake Michigan shoreline. The focus will be on human safety, infrastructure protection, erosion prevention, and ecological benefits.

    Energy Education Council Update
    According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires and the leading cause of house fire injuries. In Illinois, fire departments responded to more than 400 incidents related to cooking or kitchens in 2022. Speaking of kitchens, National Cookie Day is December 4. Use this Be a Smart Cookie social media explainer video to share ways to stay safe while spending time in the kitchen.

    Illinois winters can cause severe snow and ice storms, which can create hazardous road conditions. Extension educators can share this infographic with those they serve. The graphic provides tips about how to ready their cars and trucks for winter in case of car trouble, breakdown, or accident.


    Administrative Updates

    Dean German Bollero named Robert A. Easter Chair
    Dean Germán Bollero was formally honored as the Robert A. Easter Chair in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, surrounded by family, colleagues, students, and friends of the college on Nov. 8. Congratulations Dean Bollero. Read the full media release

    Campus Charitable Fund Drive
    The 8-week Campus Charitable Fund Drive giving platform came to a close on Wednesday, Nov. 15. To those who gave, thank you. Your contributions will help support numerous non-profit organizations that will help our co-workers, our neighbors, or even perfect strangers who just need a hand in a very hard time. The campaign would not be possible without your giving. Together we helped raise over $1 million. Thank you. 

    2024 Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award Program 
    The CSEA is a program that recognizes the importance of the outstanding work of all university staff members who perform a wide range of critical functions for the university. A single program was adopted for all staff last year with one set of rules and protocols to recognize and reward exemplary staff service, establishing university-wide visibility. This was in support of campus efforts to foster one staff community between Academic Professionals and Civil Service employees.  

    Sixteen awards will be distributed based on eight functional categories (up to two awards per category). Nominees are evaluated on four criteria, all of which are located on the award website. Each winner of the CSEA Award will be honored at a reception, where they will receive a $1,500 award (after taxes) and a commemorative plaque.

    The deadline for submitting nominations to the CSEA nomination website is Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. If there are questions, please email

    Faculty/Staff Emergency Fund
    There is still time to make a donation to the Faculty/Staff Emergency Fund. These gifts are tax-deductible as allowed by law. This fund is to help employees in crisis situations.  Since the first award on April 30, 1992, employees in crisis situations have significantly benefited from the fund, i.e., preventing the loss of dependent health insurance coverage, preventing shut-off of utilities, and meeting mortgage or rent payments. Click the link above for full details about the fund and how to contribute.              

    Directory Updates

    • Jonathon Manuel, Grants and Contracts Coordinator, Extension Business Office
    • Sarah Ursini, Office Support, Unit 8 (LaSalle Co.)
    • Gracie Schleef, 4-H EPC – Unit 13
    • Henry Craft, 4-H Educator – Unit 17
    • Christina Morgan, Office Support Assistant – Unit 20
    • Rachel Reed, Office Support Assistant – Unit 21
    • Natalin Aumiller, Office Support Assistant – Unit 21
    • Elizabeth Levey, 4-H Extension Outreach Associate – Unit 22
    • Mekaela DeGuire, EFNEP Community Worker – Unit 22
    • Sue Scheibe, Office Support Assistant – Unit 22
    • Ashlea Grumley, Office Support Assistant – Unit 24

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