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.

September 2022

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

Please join me in welcoming our inaugural assistant director, diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) for University of Illinois Extension! Dr. Camaya Wallace Bechard will officially join the leadership team on October 1 to serve all of Illinois Extension in fulfilling our vision and mission specifically related to DEIA training, assessing and evaluating, and regulatory compliance. After a national search and with strong support from Illinois Extension, I am pleased to make this announcement.

Dr. Wallace Bechard will transition from her current role as a consumer economics educator to assistant director, DEIA. Camaya has been with Illinois Extension since 2018, when she was hired to provide expertise in financial management and educational programming regarding money management and decision-making to Extension audiences in Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties. Dr. Wallace Bechard is a certified facilitator for Real Colors®, a trained facilitator for trauma-informed care, and has completed mental health first training. Camaya completed the Leadership in the City course in 2019-2020. She earned a doctorate in human development and family studies and a graduate certificate in community engagement from Michigan State University. Congratulations, Camaya!

Gratitude goes to the search committee chair Amanda Cole and search committee members Margarita Teran-Garcia, Harry Clore, Deanna Roby, Terri Casey, Jessie McCluskey, Maria Gutierrez, Laquitsha Bejoile-Hayes, and Ross Wantland for their work in recruiting and identifying outstanding candidates, and to Patty Palmer for administrative assistance.

I am forever grateful to Amanda Cole for her service as interim associate director, field operations during this past year of organizational change. She has been dedicated to Civil Rights training and EEO planning and evaluating as well as serving as a strong voice, advocate, and leader for field staff and effective field operations. Amanda will return to service as county director for Unit 18 before the end of the calendar year to ensure a successful transition with our updated administrative positions.

We are very fortunate to have a dedicated position for DEIA, and I encourage you to intentionally contribute and engage in our goals toward excellence!


Inclusive Extension
Amanda Cole, Interim Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer

Civil Rights Compliance Training Opportunities: Training related to program participant parity analysis is being planned for the 2022 Extension Annual Conference. During the session, we will help staff learn how to interpret their parity reports, set goals, and work on identifying barriers that participants might have that restrict them from attending programing. This would be a great session for staff in units scheduled for their three-year civil rights review the spring of 2023.

Another session will be a panel of staff throughout the state from both urban and rural units sharing successes in programming that they have had related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. Learn how they have engaged community members in the process of planning and outreach.

Hispanic Heritage Month: As was shared last month, we are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. The celebration continues through October 15. On October 8, the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration 2022, ¡Celebración del mes de la herencia hispana 2022!, will take place at the Lewis Auditorium at The Urbana Free Library, from 2 to 3 p.m. This event is sponsored by The Urbana Free Library and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at University of Illinois. The event will include bilingual storytelling in English and Latin American languages and help celebrate wonderful traditional music and crafts.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: The theme for NDEAM 2022 is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” During the month, we celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities past and present, and employment policies and practices that are supportive and inclusive. Download a poster or get other resources. Learn more about employee accommodations and accessibility at Illinois.

A few of the major religious holidays celebrated around the world during October:


Workforce Development
Amanda Taylor, Assistant Director Workforce Development

Extension Annual Conference | Driving Change: Extension staff start your engines! The 2022 Annual Conference theme is Driving Change. All Extension staff are encouraged to attend our first in-person conference since 2019. A smaller offering of online sessions will also be available for those who cannot make it to campus for the in-person event. We are fortunate to have Dr. Marshall Stewart as our keynote speaker on November 15. The committee is planning a great array of topics, speakers, and events to make this year’s conference unforgettable. The conference will be held November 15 and 16 at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign-Urbana. Conference registration instructions will be emailed in a few short weeks. Stay tuned!


Bridget Lee-Calfas, Director of Marketing and Communications

Please welcome our newest team members:

  • Dolan Klein, Senior Manager for Marketing and Communications
  • Jason Walker, Graphic Designer

Wednesday Wake Up Series: Hop online at 8:30 a.m. each Wednesday morning for this fast and helpful series. Upcoming opportunities include:

Photo Permissions Update: Some media outlets ask Extension staff to fill out photo release forms to use images which Extension has provided and to which we have signed release forms of our own. Legal counsel has now provided a document housed in public affairs that allows all university reps to sign these media permission forms as long as we have the campus release on record, no money is changing hands, and they are being used for publicity purposes only. Questions? Reach out to Bridget Lee-Calfas at

Recent Press Releases

Get Savvy Marketing Assets Now Available

Questions? Contact Camaya Wallace Bechard:

Coming Soon: Translation Services Policy Document


4-H Youth Development
Lisa Diaz, Assistant Dean and Director of Illinois 4-H

¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana! Illinois 4-H is excited to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year September 15 to October 15. This month celebrates not only the histories and cultures, but also the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors come from the Caribbean, Spain, Mexico, and Central/South America. Here are some ideas to help youth celebrate.

Ag and Ag Business
Travis Burke, Assistant Dean and Program Leader

Extension Master Gardeners Host In-Person Conference: The Illinois Extension Master Gardeners hosted its annual conference at the Tinley Park Convention Center. The Will County Master Gardener volunteers hosted this year’s event. Three tours were featured which included the Morton Arboretum, Cantigny Gardens, and Ball Horticulture. There were ten different teamwork awards presented, 11 sustained excellence awards, and 42 outstanding Master Gardener awards. There were 270 participants in this year’s event, and it was the first in person conference since 2019.

The Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative hosted the fall meeting in Champaign on September 13. Dr. Emily Heaton and Anya Knecht coordinated the event with University of Illinois Extension providing leadership in coordinating various partners who presented updates on regenerative agriculture. Holistic agriculture and food were at the forefront, with CARLE medical doctors addressing the issue of healthy eating and non-processed food. Panelists included Dr. Adam Davis, Department of Crop Sciences, Travis Burke, and Dr. Madhu Khanna, professor of economics. There was also an excellent presentation by University of Illinois theater group entitled “Voices of the Land” that featured a three-person dialogue on life as an Illinois farmer. The presentation used submitted stories from farmers, landowners, and others, woven together into a storytelling version of presentation.

Dr. Giovani Preza Fontes, assistant crop science professor, has begun his work in the Department of Crop Sciences. Dr. Preza Fontes replaces Dr. Emerson Nafziger, longtime crop sciences professor. Giovani will be assuming his role in crop sciences with work in corn and soybeans. He also will focus on balancing cropping systems, sustainability goals in agriculture, and nitrogen fertilizer application and management for different crops.


Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy
Shibu Kar, Assistant Dean and Program Leader

  • The Illinois Master Naturalist Conference will be held on October 17 at Memorial 4-H Camp at Allerton Park near Monticello.
  • NREE team’s annual in-service meeting is planned for October 18 and 19 on campus.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant:

  • Katie O’Reilly, aquatic invasive species specialist housed at Prairie Research Institute, started August 1. Read her background and expertise.
  • Peter Euclide, fisheries specialist at Purdue University’s forestry and natural resources department, will join Sea Grant by October 1.

Energy Education Council:

  • We are energized for October. October is Energy Awareness Month and Energy Action Month. EEC/Safe Electricity offers educational materials to Extension educators for both observances.
  • Motivate those in your area to take (energy) action by learning more about smart thermostats and a home’s energy envelope. A home’s figurative envelope consists of outer walls, windows, doors and other openings (don’t forget Fido’s pet door). Then, learn how a smart thermostat can make you smarter by making your home more efficient. Knowing more about both topics can help save energy, help the environment and lower energy bills.
  • Help others be more (energy) aware by downloading and sharing this infographic on renewable energy. The graphic explains more about renewable energy and covers the five major types: biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar.


Administrative Updates

Directory Updates

  • Bobby Allaman, EPC, 4-H, Unit 10 (Henderson & Warren counties)
  • Dolan Klein, Senior Manager for Marketing and Communications
  • Erin Orwig, County Director, Unit 8 (IVCC Office)
  • Sarah Poignant, EPC, AITC, Unit 8 (Marshall-Putnam County)
  • Taylor Pope, CW, SNAP-Ed, Unit 18 (Christian County)
  • Kristin VanDeVelde, OS Assistant, Unit 7 (Rock Island & Mercer counties)
  • Jason Walker, Graphic Designer
  • Aisha Terry – CW, SNAP-Ed – Unit 13
  • Vashawn Milton, CW, EFNEP – Unit 13
  • Cortney Benton, EPC, 4-H – Unit 17
  • Eric Eikmeier, EPC, 4-H - Unit 17
  • Macey Maxey, Office Support Assistant - Unit 19
  • Kelsey Alli, Office Support Assistant - Unit 23
  • Michelle Maze, Office Support Assistant - Unit 24
  • Terra Russell, CW, SNAP-Ed – Unit 24
  • Terri Jones, Office Support Assistant – Unit 26
  • Mindy Martin, Office Support Assistant – Unit 26
  • Kristoffer (KT) Taylor, Office Support Assistant – Unit 26
  • Jamie Mahlandt, Extension Educator, Consumer Economics – Unit 23

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