ISU Extension and Outreach here for the long haul
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 06/25/2012 1:57 PM
AMES, Iowa —Since returning to Iowa State University, Cathann Kress has added the word, "Outreach," to Extension.
When Stan Johnson was led Extension, he broadened ISU's Cooperative Extension Service from the agriculture and human sciences colleges, identified by USDA under its land grant mission, to include the College of Engineering. It became ISU Extension, said Kress, who became vice president of ISU Extension last July. Through the Center for Industrial Research and Service, Extension began serving small business and manufacturing.
Extension now partners with the College of Design and the liberal arts and business colleges have joined outreach efforts.
"As a land grant institution, we have that three-legged stool of education, research, and service and outreach, with all faculty being engaged, but I find that many faculty members aren't sure how to do that," Kress said. "We want to be a starting point for anyone who wants to do outreach. We can connect them to our Extension network. It's a great way for us to provide more for the citizens of Iowa."
This fits well with the philosophy of ISU President Steven Leath.
ISU was recently named as one of the state's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math hubs. Extension led the proposal on behalf of all ISU colleges. It will also support all hubs throughout the state.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for us to expand what we always thought was important," Kress said. "4-H was the first STEM organization 100 years ago teaching young people about hybrid seed corn and food preservation. 4-H continues to be a premiere STEM program with young people doing robotics, GIS and nanotechnology."
She pointed to work done in Benton and Tama counties when straight line winds damaged crops and destroyed much of the grain storage capacity last summer.
"Extension staff were meeting immediate needs, but they could also see that in eight weeks when it was time to harvest there would be inadequate grain storage, and they immediately went to work with farmers to find solutions," Kress said. "That kind of anticipation happens all the time in Extension and Outreach because our specialists are embedded in their communities, aware of the issues and talking to community leaders all the time. Our staff is in it for the long haul."
Kress is cautiously optimistic about the future. The Legislature held funding level, and federal cuts aren't anticipated to be as steep as in recent years. ISU also appears ready to reinvest.