Staff FYI News

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.

Internal Staff Information

January 2023

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

Happy New Year! I hope that you are looking forward to a wonderful 2023 and being an integral part of University of Illinois Extension as we fulfill our mission of Extending knowledge…Changing lives. Our goal is to connect University of Illinois Extension to every resident of our state so that they have access to unbiased, research-based information and knowledge, opportunities for training and personal development, and engagement in services that improve their livelihoods, well-being, and futures.

In this first month of the new year, I encourage you to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by engaging in programs in your communities that reflect Dr. King’s values of inclusion, nondiscrimination, equity, and nonviolence. Forty years ago, MLK Day was approved as a federal holiday, and his legacy of eloquent elocution over inarticulate anarchism has been celebrated ever since. Constructive action is longer lasting than destructive reaction. Make it a point to use your words and persuasive communication skills for making a positive difference in the lives of others this week and throughout the year.

The new year also brings changes to the University’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination guidelines. First and foremost, COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements have been removed. Everyone is still encouraged to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a face covering, socially distance, and stay at home if ill, based on personal situations and decisions about self-care and safety. If you test positive for COVID-19, you must follow the current protocol that requires isolation for five days. Please review isolation guidance and discuss with your direct supervisor. For testing options, please review the Illinois Department of Public Health for information and locations.

Cheers to another incredible year of Illinois Extension programs, trainings, services, and most importantly positive impact for all of Illinois! 


Inclusive Extension

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

Awareness Month: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 37.9 million people (11.6%) were in poverty in 2021. January is National Poverty in America Awareness Month. This month-long initiative hopes to raise awareness of the growth of poverty in America. It focuses on the inequities in housing, education, health, opportunities, justice, safety, and other areas that affect the well-being of people and communities. 

As we interact with communities in our capacity as Extension staff, it is important to recognize and remember that we don’t always fully understand the challenges individuals and families are facing when they attend or drop their youth off at a program with us. The care and thoughtfulness we show toward those we engage with matters as much as the important research-based information we share. 

Navigating Difference: A huge thanks to the Navigating Difference facilitators for their commitment to providing this opportunity to all staff. We will be working on a plan for future training. If you are interested in learning more about the training or facilitation process, please let me know.

Quarterly Professional Development Opportunity: Our next webinar, Integrating Cultural Humility in Our Programs and Partnerships, begins at 3 p.m. on January 26. Registration is open!

A Few Upcoming Dates in February:


*This list is not exhaustive. Please feel free to contact Camaya:


Marketing and Communications

Bridget Lee-Calfas
Director of Marketing and Communications

Weekly Marketing and Communications Updates: Encourage your colleagues to join our mailing list so they can also receive our weekly updates featuring all of the latest press releases, blogs, newsletters, graphics packages, webinars, trainings, social media posts, and more.

2023 MarCom Team Organizational Chart Updates: Help us welcome Jenna Braasch and Herbert Chavez who have both joined the state team as media communications coordinators. Jenna will focus on AAB and NREE content, and Herbert will focus on FCS, CED, and IHD content. As the team has continued to expand, some roles have evolved over the past year, so please take a look at our updated MarCom organizational chart.

2022 Marketing and Communications Training Summary and Resources: Did you miss a training or simply need to revisit what you learned in 2022? Bookmark this training summary document to ensure easy access to topics from branding and analytics to digital accessibility and annual reports. Have suggestions for 2023 trainings? Email Judy Mae Bingman.


Information Technology

James Hazzard
Information Technology Director

Welcome to the new year! We have lots of exciting projects and upgrades in store for 2023, but first we’d like to remind everyone to take a look at our website. We have lots of great info here, including our IT policy and resources. When in doubt, you can usually find an answer there about support, ordering equipment, and new hires and setups. Please remember to fill out our new hire form here 1 FULL day in advance of a start, and remember, no Macs!

Drupal 9 Website Project: On the web front, our Drupal 9 project is nearly complete with the website slated for a major upgrade and facelift in mid-February. Our web development team is working with marketing and communication staff to update all the relevant unit and topic pages now in advance of the roll out. If you are a web content creator, please be on the lookout for a training announcement from Dan Horn and Judy Bingman to learn the changes on the back end in Drupal 9. It will be close to what you’re used to with some great new improvements.

Printers: Our PrinterLogic migration to their new cloud-based software ran into a snag. Many of you were affected, and if you’re still having issues we’ve covered the most common causes here in this knowledgebase article. We worked with the vendor on the source of the issues and have worked out a solution. We will resume the migrations in small batches next week, and with your help and cooperation, we’ll get everyone upgraded (without the hiccups) soon!


4-H Youth Development

Lisa Diaz
Assistant Dean and Director of Illinois 4-H

Welcome, Amber Heern! Amber Heern has accepted the position of Extension educator, 4-H youth development for Unit 23. Amber joins University of Illinois Extension with a background in elementary education. She has spent the last 15 years working with third through fifth grade students at Trico Elementary School in Campbell Hill. While there, Amber also acted as the after-school program coordinator. She comes to us with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, along with a master’s degree as a reading specialist from SIUC. In 2020, she obtained her National Board Certification.  Welcome, Amber!


Agriculture and Agri-business

Travis Burke
Assistant Dean and Program Leader

Kevin Brooks began his new role as farm management educator and joined the commercial agriculture team on December 15, 2022. Brooks served University of Illinois Extension for 10 years until 2011, and since that time, he has done private sector farm management work. He will be housed in the Havana office and will work with the campus ag economics department, as well as serve as a resource for field educators. 

The From Food to Flowers: Everything Local Conference was held from January 11-13 in Springfield. This is a combined conference which includes the specialty crop, farmers market, and local foods groups. This is a unique event which brings together farmers and agribusiness leaders at one setting this year. 

Illinois Farmer Summit: Illinois Extension and the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics hosted the farmdoc's Illinois Farmer Summit. They were offered January 10, 11, and 12 in Mt. Vernon, Peoria, and DeKalb respectively. The purpose was to discuss and review the 2022 farm year and to look ahead for 2023.


Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy

Shibu Kar
Assistant Dean and Program Leader

Impact Collaborative Summit: The NREE team will be participating in the upcoming Impact Collaborative Summit January 17 through 19 and present on their project, Developing Climate Relevant Content for Extension Programs, funded by Extension Foundation’s Incubation grant.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has several fellowship opportunities available to faculty members and graduate students interested in research funding. The 2023 IISG Scholars Program competition is now open. The program is designed to help build a community of researchers and outreach professionals focused on critically important Lake Michigan issues. These one-year awards are intended to help graduate student scholars further their research impact and help faculty scholars develop innovative, fundable proposals for future work in the region.

Fellowships: We also have several prestigious fellowships open for graduate students looking to expand their horizons. For example, the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship offers the opportunity to spend 2024 in Washington D.C. working in Congress or an Executive Branch office. The fellowship brings together graduate students’ interests in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources with national policy decisions affecting those resources.


Administrative Updates

Vice President for Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University Announced: Jason Henderson has been appointed vice president for Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. He starts at ISU on April 3, 2023. 

Interim associate dean to be named for Purdue Extension: Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension, has accepted a position with Iowa State University. 

From Purdue: Ag Leaders and Friends,

Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension, has accepted the position of vice president for Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. An interim associate dean will be named shortly before Jason’s departure in April, and a search for an associate dean and director of Purdue Extension will commence.

Jason returned to Purdue where he earned his doctorate in agricultural economics in 2013. During the last nine years, he has worked with Extension colleagues to bring applied research to citizens in Indiana and around the world, to advance our work with Indiana’s youth, and to provide diverse support to Hoosier families and communities.

We were fortunate to have Jason in leadership role during the pandemic. Within a matter of weeks, hundreds of Extension staff members successfully began transforming their in-person programs to virtual opportunities. The lessons learned during this time continues to inform how Purdue Extension will reach out in the future.

I want to personally thank Jason for his commitment and service to Purdue Extension and the College of Agriculture. Please join me in wishing him great success as he returns to his home state of Iowa.

Karen (Plaut)

REMIINDER: Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award Nominations NOW OPEN: The CSEA program combines the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Staff Award (CDSA) into a unified Chancellor’s staff award program. Nominees are judged on: overall work performance, self-improvement, initiative and creativity, and enhancing the reputation of the department and/or university. Nominations are due 5 p.m. on January 20, 2023.   


Directory Updates

New employees

  • Amber Heern, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development – Unit 23
  • Ross Osterday, Community Outreach Worker, SNAP-Ed – Unit 19
  • Sheri Moore, Community Outreach Worker, SNAP-Ed – Unit 22
  • Shanetra Lankaway, Community Outreach Worker, SNAP-Ed – Unit 22
  • Elizabeth Gehl, Community Outreach Worker, SNAP-Ed – Unit 22
  • Logan Kennard, Extension Program Coordinator, 4-H – Unit 25
  • Micheal Baumann, CW (SNAP-Ed), Unit 8 (Bureau)
  • Kevin Brooks, Commercial Ag Farm Management Educator, Unit 11 (Mason)
  • Rebecca Crumrine, Educator (SNAP-Ed), Unit 11 (Tazewell), Transitions from EPC (SNAP-Ed).
  • Emma Eathington, Undergrad Hourly/EPC (4-H), Unit 10 (Knox Co)
  • Teresa Frakes, Office Support, Unit 7 (Mercer). Transitions from EH.
  • Araceli Garcia, CW (SNAP-Ed), Unit 7 (Rock Island)
  • Stacia McKeever, EPC (Marketing), Unit 10 (McDonough)
  • Michelle Uphoff – Office Support, Unit 8 (IVCC Office)
  • Jane Shaw – EPC (4-H), Unit 4 (Carroll County). Transitions from OS.
  • Shawna Stake-Charron, Office Support, Unit 16 (Logan)
  • Kinsey Tiemann, EPC (AITC-NREE), Unit 14 (Adams)
  • Jenna Braasch, Campus, Media Communications Coordinator, Marketing and Communications
  • Herbert Chavez, Campus, Media Communications Coordinator, Marketing and Communications



Avis Skinner: It is with sadness that we share the news of the passing of Avis Skinner. Avis served as office support for Henry/Stark counties and later Knox County before retiring after 14 years. View her obituary.  Deepest sympathies are extended to Avis’ family, friends and former co-workers.

Chuck Dantone: Deepest sympathies are extended to Unit 11 community worker Julie Dantone and her family at the passing of her father, Chuck Dantone. Expressions of sympathy may be mailed to: Julie Dantone, University of Illinois Extension, 1505 Valle Vista, Pekin IL  61554.

Patricia Knowles: Sympathies are extended to Erin Knowles, Extension digital content strategist, on the death of her mother, Patricia Knowles. Read the full obituary. Expressions of sympathy may be mailed to Erin at 548A Bevier Hall, 905 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

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