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Extension > Family Matters > 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Southeast Region: For Richer, For Poorer

Seventeen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Southeast Regional Visit August 14 at the Owatonna Fire Hall.

The Southeast Region is the second-most populated region in the state, exceeded only by the Central Region, which includes the Twin Cities. The Southeast Region is anchored by two large cities on either side: Rochester to the east and Mankato to the west. Four themes dominated discussion at the Southeast Regional Visit.

Kids Learn Their Way Around the Kitchen in Cooking Matters Courses

Amy Baack, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

This year, kids in the Southeast region have been learning how to cook healthy foods for themselves, their families, and their friends, thanks to Extension and partners’ sponsorship of Cooking Matters® Minnesota courses at area schools. A typical course was held in early 2015 at Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center, where fourth-grade students attended Cooking Matters for Kids classes once a week for six weeks after school.

Latino Parents Engage with Middle Schools in Southeast Region Communities

Partnering for School Success (PSS) is a University of Minnesota Extension project in that focuses on two of the major factors related to academic achievement for Latino families: family and school environments. This CYFAR (Children, Youth & Families at Risk) project is in year four of a five-year federal grant, and takes place at Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center and Faribault Middle School, both of which are in southeast Minnesota.

Schools and Farmers that Crunch Together, Stay Together

By Andrea Kronbach, SNAP-Ed Educator

In honor of National Farm to School Month in October, schools, preschools, and colleges in six states joined in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, and University of Minnesota Extension was part of the celebration.

Regional Food Access Gathering Draws a Crowd

Last month, representatives from over 70 community organizations and students from Extension’s Southeast regions attended a day-long gathering on food access held at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

Participants attended three afternoon presentations, including two by FD staff:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Re-Energizing Recess

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate — Family Development

SNAP-Ed Educator Carolyn McQueen works with Crow Wing County schools in northeastern Minnesota. At one of the schools, Garfield Elementary in Brainerd, she does direct education, teaching students how to make good nutritional choices and be physically active.

When Carolyn was introduced to Dave Baloga, the physical education specialist at Garfield, they realized that they had some common goals. Dave had noticed some students were inactive during recess and that a considerable number of students had discipline issues. He suggested that “active recess” — an idea he heard at a SHAPE America conference he had attended — might be a way to address both issues, and he offered some ideas on how to bring active recess to Garfield. They decided to work together on the suggestion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Northeast Regional Challenges Span the Spectrum

Twenty staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Northeast Regional Visit on August 13 at the Regional Extension Center in Grand Rapids. This region is the largest geographic region in the state. Due to the sheer size of the region, the grand challenges discussed at the Northeast Regional Visit varied significantly for different sections of the region.

Counties west of St. Louis County. The grand challenges for this section were dominated by racial disparities; poor health, including high rates of diabetes; and the limited access to basic needs, such as food, housing, and health care, experienced by American Indian families.


St. Louis County Commissioner a Partner in Prevention

By Darlene Collins, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

One of the most interesting things that has happened recently in the Northeast Region has to do with the Spectrum of Prevention. SNAP-Ed Educators Linda Erdahl, Chris Strand, Betty Wistrom, and I made a presentation on the spectrum to the St. Louis County Extension Committee in October.

We first discussed how our SNAP-Ed work is funded and what our goals are. Then we moved to results of individual programming and ended with an explanation of PSE (policy, system, and environmental) work. Chris showed a slide of the multicolored Spectrum of Prevention (SOP) model, and then we heard, "I know what that is."
Instantly recognizable.
For more information on the Spectrum of Prevention, please visit Prevention Institute.

‘Changing’ Partners and Approaches to Meet Family Needs in Northeastern Minnesota

An article published in the Milwaukee Sentinel Press on December 24, 1983 about the mining layoffs during that time describes a situation eerily similar to today’s situation across northeastern Minnesota. The article stated, “A huge sign on northern Minnesota’s once prosperous Iron Range reads: ‘Unemployed again, thanks to foreign imports.’” We’ve been through this before. Mining has always had a cyclical nature, but now our economic influences are global.

The Hull Rust Mahoning Mine in Hibbing, Minnesota
Photo credit: Minnesota DNR
During the Northeast Regional Visit in Grand Rapids, we talked a great deal about the economic impact of the taconite mining industry in northeastern Minnesota. In this region, natural resources drive our economy. Along with approximately 2,000 jobs temporarily lost during the past nine months through mining, there are additional “indirect” jobs impacted from International Falls to Duluth and Grand Rapids to Grand Marais. Workers that typically bring home $60,000–80,000 annually (or about $1400 per week) are now receiving roughly $660 per week in unemployment benefits, which are set to run out soon for the first wave of workers laid off in the spring of 2015. What will those families do once the funds run out?

Staff Announcements


Yoha Christianson returned to Ramsey County on November 16, to bring our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to the Karen immigrant population, many of whom have settled in St Paul. Yoha is an innovative and enthusiastic community nutrition educator. He is concerned about the health of his community and has strong ties with agencies and community leaders. Welcome back, Yoha!



Sharon Mulé will start as the Staff Development Coordinator for Family Development on January 4. This is a new position and she will work closely with Family Development leadership to map out staff training needs and create a plan to meet those needs. Sharon has been working at the University for over six years at the  Institute on Community Integration as a project coordinator and national trainer. Prior to coming to the University, she worked at Arc Greater Twin Cities as a program specialist and trainer on special education law. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and families including work as a school readiness home visitor and a parent education instructor. Sharon is looking forward to meeting all of you and working with our teams in Family Development!



Family Development is happy to announce that a hire has been made for the Health and Nutrition Associate Program Director position. Teri Burgess-Champoux earned her Bachelors degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University, her Masters degree in Nutritional Sciences from San Diego State University, and her Doctorate in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. She completed postdoctoral training to conduct public health research in adolescent health at the University of Minnesota. Her areas of expertise are nutrition education and child and adolescent health and obesity prevention. Over the course of her career, Dr. Burgess-Champoux has worked in a variety of practice settings as a clinical dietitian and dietetics educator. Most recently, Dr. Burgess-Champoux was an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at St. Catherine University teaching undergraduate nutrition students and conducting research. She also serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Burgess-Champoux has been awarded the Public Health Nutrition Division Research Award from the Society for Nutrition Education (2007), the Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award from the American Dietetic Association (2003), and the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award from the American Dietetic Association (1992). She currently serves on the journal committee for Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and has been a program reviewer for the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics since 2005.

Teri L. Burgess-Champoux will start January 4 and will be housed in Coffey Hall.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Northwest Region Tackles Poverty and Health Disparities

Minnesota is at the center
of four ecological provinces.
Thirteen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Northwest Regional Visit on August 12 at the Becker County Extension Office in Detroit Lakes. The visit featured great conversations about the region’s grand challenges, including the challenges of living in poverty and related issues of lack of access to healthy foods (food deserts) and few safe places for physical activity. Attendees noted that while the region is rich in natural resources — with four biomes offering the makings for economic growth and recreation — these resources are not translating to local economic benefits or opportunities for healthy activities for low-income families.

The Northwest Region features prairie and grasslands, lakes, forests, and farms. However, behind the beautiful lakes and countryside lie counties with the highest rates of poverty and chronic health issues. For example, Mahnomen County has 20–26.4 percent of families living in poverty, the highest rate in Minnesota. The Northwest Region also has the highest percentage of household recipients receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars in Minnesota.

Farm to School Program Comes to Park Rapids

The Park Rapids School District is joining a national trend to get better food in school cafeterias. During this October's Farm to School Month, the district partnered with SNAP-Ed Educator Donna Anderson to "get it right."

The Meaning of Money for American Indian and Latino Families


By Jennifer Garbow, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

Many American Indian families call the Northwest Region of Minnesota home. These families have their own cultural values and norms regarding money management and personal finance. The majority of mainstream financial education tends to focus on an individual’s advancement and does not consider the extended family and community as the individual’s financial responsibility.

Within the American Indian community, however, success is often measured by one’s ability to contribute to the well-being of others. Recognizing the connection with others, American Indians (as a whole) emphasize sharing material possessions, which includes money. This difference in focus poses a unique challenge to educators working with American Indian families, as well as families from other non-dominant cultures.

Strengthening Partners in Local Food Production

By Noelle Harden, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Across Northwest Minnesota, local food production plays a prominent role in efforts to increase access to healthy food. Health and Nutrition staff are partnering with organizations across the region to promote equitable access to community and home gardens, farmers markets, CSA (community-supported agriculture) networks, farm to institution programs, and wild food foraging.

The Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NW RSDP) is a key partner making a difference to strengthen healthy, local food systems in the region. Staff from NW RSDP and Health and Nutrition have worked together to support initiatives like the Fresh Connect Food Hub in Fergus Falls and programs like Local Foods College, an annual series of eight live webinars focused on local food production.

You can find recordings of all sessions at Local Foods College Archive.

Northwest Region Embraces I CAN Prevent Diabetes Program

By Sara Van Offelen,  SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator, Northwest Minnesota

Rural Minnesotans have higher rates of diabetes than their urban counterparts. So it's no surprise that individuals and communities in the Northwest Region have embraced the I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD) program offered by Extension in partnership with Essentia Health, Sanford Health, and Tri-County Health Care.

This past year, 87 Northwest Region residents enrolled in ICANPD courses offered in Wadena, Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Mahnomen, Bagley, and Pelican Rapids. The free, 12-month program requires participants to meet with a SNAP-Ed educator once a week for 16 weeks, and then continue with once-a-month check-ins for another eight months.

SNAP-Ed educators help participants learn how to eat healthy foods, add physical activity to their daily routine, manage stress, and overcome their personal barriers to healthier living.

Overall, ICANPD aims to help participants learn how to make lifestyle changes designed to prevent Type 2 diabetes, and some participants, like Pat Lorentz of Wadena, report some dramatic changes. After completing the weekly sessions, Pat lost 12 percent of her weight, nearly double the original goal set by SNAP-Ed Educator Marilyn Hofland.

ICANPD participant Pat Lorentz with two of her grandchildren.
Source: Tri-County Health Care

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why did the customer cross the road?

What happens when a farmers market moves across the street from a food co-op? Collaboration on system changes, that's what!

Pomme de Terre Foods Manager William Pelowski explains how a produce cooler supports economic relationships with local farmers and an credit card terminal supports families using SNAP benefits (or those who forgot their cash at home).


This collaboration was made possible through the efforts of many, including Morris Healthy Eating, University of Minnesota Extension, and SNAP-Ed Educator Ashraf Ashkar.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Southwest Region Takes on Education, Immigration, and EBT Issues

Sixteen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Southwest Regional Visit on August 11 at the Willmar Regional Extension office.

From left to right: Karen Shirer, Sara Croymans, Darlyce Rangaard, Bonnie Christiansen,
Trish Olson, Lorelei Schelhaas, and Kathy Schwantes

There was considerable conversation about grand challenges for the region, including three common issues that emerged:

Meeting the educational needs of individuals with mental health issues or developmental disabilities. Staff reported there are many outstanding needs among those who have mental health issues or developmental disabilities in the Southwest Region. These audiences often need basic education and training in areas such as life skills, nutrition, and general health — areas in which Family Development shines. Regional staff suggested adapting our curricula, educational resources, and teaching approaches to better serve these audiences. We in FD — leadership, supervisors, educators, evaluators, coordinators, and support staff — are interested in exploring training for staff on working with these audiences and learning from all staff about dilemmas they face in the field ("practice dilemmas"), as well as successes in their respective content areas. FD also is in process of hiring a staff development coordinator and curriculum development coordinator whose work will include addressing the educational needs of audiences with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

What Else Do We Know About the Southwest Region?



Jeanne Laqua, Office/Administrative Services Supervisor

Here are six facts about the Southwest Region:
  • Twenty counties comprise this region — more than any other region in the state.
  • The Southwest Region has the smallest population of any other region in the state. By comparison, the Southeast Region is smaller geographically speaking, but has more than two and half times the population.
  • The largest population centers are located in Kandiyohi, Lyon, Nobles, and Martin counties.
  • The Southwest Region has a very strong educational foundation, with one in every 10 people (10.5 percent) having associate's degrees and just under one-fifth (17.6 percent) of the region's adult population holding bachelor's degrees or higher.
  • Healthcare and manufacturing provide more than one-third of the employment in Southwest Minnesota, with most employment sectors projected to experience job growth by 2020.
  • Southwest Minnesota consistently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

The Southwest Region is home to four Extension Regional Offices: Morris, Willmar, Marshall, and Worthington. Family Development is currently represented by 15 staff members in the region:
  • 2 Health and Nutrition Extension educators
  • 1 Family Resiliency Extension educator
  • 1 Family Resiliency local program educator
  • 1 SNAP-Ed regional coordinator
  • 10 SNAP-Ed educators

Source: Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council. (2012). Regional profile, reports, & program plans.

Group and Individualized Financial Education

Jose Lamas is the Southwest Region’s Family Resiliency local program educator. This spring, Worthington Community Education Director Sharon Johnson requested that Jose teach a tenant education class for Karen families who are new to the community. Jose taught the class in June, using University of Minnesota Extension's RentWise curriculum for the session. Participants reported on their evaluation that they had learned: "How to communicate with the landlord"; "How to report if something is broken"; and "How to take care of my home."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Alternative Learning in Worthington

By Bonnie Christiansen, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

This October and November, SNAP-Ed Educators Leticia Rodriguez and Conchita Paez-Sievert partnered with Hy-Vee to hold a Cooking Matters™ for Teens class with the Middle Level Alternative Program students from the Worthington Alternative Learning Center.

During the six week course, students traveled to Hy-Vee to learn from a chef and nutrition educators how to make a recipe. Then, they applied their learning, making the recipes themselves — and, of course, eating them.

Lessons focused on making healthy meals and practicing safe cooking.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Addressing Our Own Grand Challenges

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation

During our regional visits this summer, I shared an update about the University's plans on addressing Grand Challenges. President Kaler issued a challenge to the University community in his 2014 State of the University address:

Poverty. Social inequality. Religious intolerance. World hunger. Climate change. Disease. These are among the most serious and intractable problems we face. They are among some of the world's Grand Challenges. ...

Students, faculty, staff, donors, community partners — no matter how different your perspective is, I believe together we will continue to move this University forward because we share a belief [in the same] principles. I believe those principles to be:

  • A limitless ambition in all we do,
  • An intolerance for complacency in our workplace or our work,
  • Academic excellence and global impact,
  • And civic responsibility to be a guiding force to meet those Grand Challenges. ...
I want this University to have a Grand Ambition and apply that against our many Grand Challenges.

The challenge for us is not to wait for someone else to name these Grand Challenges. At each regional visit, staff members described their own region's grand challenges. Similar to what President Kaler describes above, our own staff have accepted the challenge to address, find solutions for, and work towards minimizing the many issues that exist in our own state.

The next five editions of Family Matters will highlight our own regional grand challenges, and Family Development's efforts in that region. Family Matters will return to normal in January. We'll kick off this series by highlighting the Southwest Region next week.

Grand Challenges Research: Forum Summaries and Next Steps

The following is a reprint of an email sent to selected Twin Cities faculty and staff by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost on November 19.

Dear Colleagues,

Many of you participated in the series of recent Grand Challenges Research Forums to help shape core components of the University's scholarly future. In all, the five forums drew about 600 faculty, staff, and students to discuss our wide-ranging research strengths. The discussions brought into sharper focus the 130 ideas submitted by faculty during our Call for Ideas process — and potential opportunities to integrate and expand the impact of work to address critical societal challenges.

How Is the University — Including Extension — Uniquely Situated to Meet Grand Challenges?

In October, I participated in first three of the five Grand Challenge Campus Forums hosted by University of Minnesota Provost Karen Hanson. The forums were centered on the following broad “umbrella” themes:
  • How will we ensure just and equitable societies?
  • How will we foster human potential and well-being across the life course in a diverse and changing world?
  • How will we advance human health?
  • How will we develop sustainable cities and resilient communities in a world of climate change?
  • How will we provide secure food, water and energy today and for the future?

Diversity, a Grand Challenge and a Great Opportunity, as Highlighted by the Food Access Summit

In October, I attended a Grand Challenges forum on fostering human potential and well-being, which included themes of diversity. Then, in November, I attended the Food Access Summit and realized how relevant it was to the Grand Challenge themes of diversity. I wish to express how enthusiastic I am about all the opportunities that lie ahead in the realm of cultural diversity and the movement of inclusion as they relate to those of us in Extension Health and Nutrition.

Post-Food Access Summit, Part 2

I asked the Health and Nutrition staff who attended last week's Food Access Summit in Duluth to share one quote or idea that stuck with them. This is what they said.

I really enjoyed Natasha Bowens' presentation and thought her reflection of not seeing enough people of color in the farming sector or at farmers markets was a good push to focus more on that topic. I want to work towards making farming and farmers markets a welcoming environment for all people and encourage others to do the same.

Theresa Donnelly
SNAP-Ed Educator


Website Bytes: All in the Family

When was the last time you visited the public Family page on the Extension public website? Recently — because it’s your browser’s home page? Or so long ago you can’t remember?

Well, wherever you fall on the frequency-of-visits spectrum, here are three things you may not know about the Family page:


So now that you know these three things about the public Family page, make it your home page and stay in the know.

Hannah Jastram 
Communications Associate

Staff Transitions

Diane Rasmussen has left Extension for a job in the private sector. Her last day as SNAP-Ed regional coordinator in the metro area was November 13. We thank her for her time and wish her the best!

Amanda Corbett, research associate, is leaving Extension to join the U of M’s Rural Health Research Center. She will be a researcher on a team that is bridging research and practice and informing policymakers on the health care needs of rural populations. Amanda's last day with the Applied Research and Evaluation team in FD will be November 30. Please join us in congratulating Amanda on her new position and thanking her for her amazing work supporting Policy, Systems, and Environmental evaluation and adaptation studies in Health and Nutrition.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Living the Post-Conference Life

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

Conference season is upon us! Many of us have attended conferences over the past few months and others will continue to do so in the upcoming months.

I don't know about you, but often when I attend a conference and meet new people and learn about new research and programming, I return home energized to apply all that I learned to my own work. But once I get to the office, the energy and ideas are pushed aside as I prioritize my existing work.

Post-Food Access Summit, Part 1

I asked the Health and Nutrition staff who attended last week's Food Access Summit in Duluth to share one quote or idea that stuck with them. This is what they said.
 
"Justice is what love looks like in public" — Cornell West
It's one of my favorite quotes. Relevant in networking and relevant as we talk about racial disparities in the food system.

Lisa Wong
SNAP-Ed Educator

Health and Nutrition Associate Program Director Completes Degree

Congratulations to Margaret Haggenmiller on receiving her Master of Education degree in the College of Education and Human Services at University of Minnesota — Duluth!

Margaret’s final capstone project, “A Study of the Implementation Process of an Expanded School Breakfast Program,” was not only applauded by her committee members, but they are also encouraging her to publish her work. FD’s Applied Research and Evaluation team hopes to learn from Margaret about the project and how it can inform Health and Nutrition’s work.

In the acknowledgement page of the final paper, Margaret wrote, “A very special thanks to my husband John for cooking nearly every meal for the last two years.” This shows in a small, yet significant way, what kind of commitment it takes to obtain a degree while working full time.

Mary Marczak
Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation

Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter Now Available

The November–December issue of the Latino Financial Literacy Program newsletter is now available. In this issue, you will find the following articles:
  • Choosing Health Insurance that Meets Your Needs and Your Budget
  • Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences
  • Some Things You Should Know Before Canceling a Credit Card
  • Smart Shopping for the Holidays
  • Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Creating Accessible Environments

What constitutes a disability according to the law? How does our understanding of disability influence what we do to provide meaningful access in our programs and resources? Attend Extension’s December webinar at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 9 at to get answers to these kinds of questions from Roberta L. Kehne, physical access coordinator with the U of M Disability Resource Center. You will also learn about additional resource and referral information that is available, including those offered through the center. Visit the Extension intranet to register for the “Creating Accessible Environments” webinar: Program Resources > Professional Development > Topic Webinar.

Hannah Jastram
Communications Associate

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Following Flip Saunders’ Lead to Build a Culture of ‘WE’

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation 

There was a universal outpouring of love and support after part-owner and head coach of Minnesota Timberwolves Flip Saunders died at age 60 while fighting Hodgkin lymphoma. A moving video tribute was shown Monday, November 2, before the Timberwolves home opener at Target Center: Watch the video tribute from Target Center.

Report Chronicles Collective Action for Healthy Food Access

We, in Health and Nutrition, are delighted to share our final report featuring key activities of statewide food networks. The report includes challenges these networks face and best practices to cultivate collective action to meet those challenges. While this report was developed after interviews with 15 statewide food networks, the opportunities, challenges, and best practices present excellent lessons and considerations for any local or regional network.

FD Social Media: Rounding Up, Down, and All Around

By Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate

Change is in the air. Hannah Jastram, communications associate, and I are working with leadership and educators to tweak our social media presence to be #strongertogether.

Word Matters: Want to Look Smart? Write Simple.

Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor

Many of us may think that writing with big words makes us look smarter. One significant study says the opposite is true.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Reflections from the Road

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

As associate dean, my work involves a great deal of travel in the state as well as across the country. My medical needs put a damper on my travel for the past year; but these last two months, I have embarked on a more robust travel schedule that included seven regional visits in Minnesota and a conference in Detroit. Experiences from these travels have built on each other and are shaping how I lead our work.

Bringing Systems Thinking to our Work

The inclusion of policy, systems, and environment change strategies in our work requires a shift in our way of thinking. While thinking about how we can change behavior through direct education is still important, we also need to think about the systems in play that will affect participants' ability to make the desired behavior change after they leave our classes. We explored this topic in Health and Nutrition's Spectrum of Prevention modules with this video: Broc and the Systems. This video illustrates some of the systems that have an impact on a family's ability to make healthy choices. But there are many videos that cover this topic. In fact, if you search YouTube for “systems thinking,” you get over 20,000 results!

Consider Giving to FD During Community Fund Drive

Hopefully you are all considering giving during this year's Community Fund Drive. Did you know that Family Development has a number of U of M Foundation funds that you can give to? Here's a summary of the FD funds. (Note: You can contribute to the funds without links with an offline giving form. See the instructions after the summary.)

Introducing Two New SNAP-Ed Educators

Hanan Osman joined the Minneapolis-Saint Paul SNAP-Ed team on October 26 as a SNAP-Ed Oromo educator. She is of Oromo origin from Ethiopia, and her nationality is Canadian. In the past, Hanan has worked as a health educator in sexual health, HIV prevention, and health promotion. She is a firm believer in providing people meaningful information to make informed decisions about their health. She is an advocate of upholding anti-oppressive principles, participatory engagement models, and multilingual approaches in achieving health with dignity. “I hope to contribute to the continued success [of] this Extension program,” Hanan writes, “provide my knowledge and expertise, and also gain [a] wealth of knowledge from the amazing group of people I will begin to work with.”

Rebecca (Becca) Spanier joined the Southwest Region SNAP-Ed team on October 26 as the SNAP-Ed Spanish educator in Kandiyohi County. Becca has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She has both a personal and professional background living and working outside the United States in Venezuela, Costa Rica, and most recently Mozambique, where she served in the Peace Corps for 14 months as a community health volunteer. Becca’s interest in healthy living, a passion for helping people, and taking a public health approach in her work are what excite her in her new role in Extension.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Exploring Guatemala


Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency
Trish Olson, Director of Programs — Family Development


The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. This bird symbolized freedom to the ancient Maya because it would not live in captivity. There are many things that "bind" modern Guatemalans — poverty, political upheaval, to name just two — yet this symbol is everywhere. Their commitment to the development of and investment in their youth is one way they work for freedom.

Scenes from Video Land

Making UMConnect Recordings Accessible — Remember how the Adobe Connect server is no longer with us? Ruth has been hard at work uploading past webinars to our YouTube playlists, such as Disaster Recovery

6 Tips for Creating Share-worthy Videos — While Academic Technologist Alison Holland can't promise you'll "go viral," she is willing to bet your number of views and share will increase if you follow these tips.

Digital Backpack — Access to a suite of video clips, audio clips, and graphics is now available to faculty and staff through a two-month trial of VideoBlocks for Education. Download as much content as you like to your own device (not to a shared server)!

Lessons from the Field: The Synergistic Effect

By Eugene Hall, Graduate Research Assistant

Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson used the word “synergy” to describe what was happening during last week’s Lessons from the Field seminar, titled “Children in Common: Ensuring the Emotional Well-Being of Children When Parenting Apart.” The event was held “live” in Minneapolis and by video stream for clinicians, researchers, parents, and other interested people throughout Minnesota and the nation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Introducing a New SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

Please welcome Susan Draves as the newest member of the SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator team. Susan will be working out of the Rochester regional office and since she grew up in Rochester, is very familiar with the area. She is a U of M graduate ('87) and a mother of four (two are teens and two are in college). Susan resides in Lake City and loves pursuing an active lifestyle that includes hiking, biking, walking her dog, sailing and gardening. She is passionate about local foods, farmers markets, good reads, improving her Spanish, and music!

Word Matters: Appreciating Pope Francis’s Way with Words

Last month I had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis in person. I was among the nearly 1 million people who lined the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia when he passed by in the popemobile — only 20 feet away. I was near enough to see his broad smile and feel the warmth of his presence, which radiates joy and peace.
While I have some points of disagreement with Pope Francis, I am in accord with many of his teachings — especially his overarching plea to preserve the life and dignity of all people, whatever their station or circumstance in life. I also like his focus on the poor and marginalized. (Can you see why I love working in Family Development?)

Now, Pope Francis isn't saying anything that past popes haven't said. Yet, his words resonate more than those of previous pope's — with me and millions of people worldwide, both Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian. Why?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Health and Nutrition Extension Educator Positions Filled

We are happy to announce that both of our Health and Nutrition Extension educator positions for the urban area have been filled.
  • Laura Bohen will be transitioning from a SNAP-Ed regional coordinator role to this new position around November 2. The details for this transition are still being determined. We will be opening a new search for a replacement for Laura's current position; the link for this new posting will be available shortly.
  • Laura Perdue will be continuing as an Extension educator, but will transition from the St. Cloud office to the urban area position in November. This change will take place November 2, but Laura's physical move will most likely take place later in November. We will also be posting a replacement for Laura's current EE position; more details to follow soon.
Congratulations to Laura and Laura!
Mary Marczak
Director — Urban Family Development and Evaluation

Owning the Personal

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

On Wednesday, October 7, at the annual Extension Fall Program Conference in Bloomington, America Bracho, M.D., spoke at our center’s meeting about her work as executive director of Latino Health Access (LHA), a center for health promotion and disease prevention in program in Santa Ana, CA. As Trish Olson, director of programs, wrote in a Family Matters column in July, Participation Makes the Difference, a team of seven Health and Nutrition staff members visited LHA this summer, and we used the program conference as an opportunity to share Dr. Bracho’s message with more FD staff and faculty.

Email Etiquette: Rethink Replies to Listservs


By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate, and Mary Caskey, Associate Program Director

Email these days. It’s hard to keep up. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all agreed on how to make each others’ lives easier by sending fewer emails?

In this Email Etiquette tip, we propose rethinking how we congratulate colleagues on listservs. In the past couple months, we’ve seen an uptick of announcements of media covering the great work of FD staff. On the helpful side, the announcements sent through the FD or H&N listserv are a good way to celebrate our colleagues and inform everybody about what they’re doing. On the less helpful side, the congratulatory responses to these announcements can clog our email inboxes.

Did you know that every time someone replies to an email from the FD listserv, that reply lands in over 150 email inboxes? Let’s look at how we can show enthusiasm for our colleagues’ accomplishments, as well as show respect for their inboxes.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Adapting Diabetes Prevention Program for Different Cultures

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

University of Minnesota Extension staff in health and nutrition are planning, piloting, and documenting adaptations to Individuals and Communities Acting Now to Prevent Diabetes® (or I CAN Prevent Diabetes), a diabetes prevention program. The adaptations are to make the program culturally relevant for Somali and Spanish-speaking populations, while maintaining content- and principle-based fidelity and ensuring intended outcomes and impacts.

Through this 2-year project, the I CAN Prevent Diabetes course is being implemented in two different cultural communities in southwestern Minnesota:
  • The Latino community in Worthington.
  • The Somali community in Willmar.
The project team is gathering information to help adapt I CAN Prevent Diabetes to be accessible and culturally relevant for these populations. Sources of information include local cultural guides, focus groups with community members, interviews with community partners, and intensive reflection by SNAP-Ed educators. Adaptations are addressing issues such as tracking food intake without relying on literacy skills, building family support, reducing barriers to attending class, and cultural perceptions of the concept of prevention.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Through Grant, Extension Helps Fresh Connect Food Hub Grow

“What about a food hub?”

This is the question Dana Reith, Jane Eastes, and Melissa Mattson of Lakes County Service Cooperative (LCSC) asked in 2012. Two years later, they had established the Fresh Connect Food Hub in Fergus Falls — an effort that included a 12-week pilot season during which more than 34,000 pounds of produce from nine farms were distributed to 12 school districts, a hospital, and a nursing home in West Central Minnesota. Growers anticipate distributing an even greater volume of produce by the end of the food hub’s second season later this fall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

'Syzygy'

After watching the lunar eclipse on Monday, I learned a new word: syzygy. Syzygy (pronounced “siz-i-jee”) has a dual definition:
  1. An alignment of three celestial bodies
  2. “Yoked together”
This word had me thinking of the multiple events in the news this week and how they are “yoked together.” Three things come to mind: new data on income inequality, Pope Francis’s U.S. visit, and FD’s regional discussions.

Staffing Changes are Underway in FD Admin

Kate Demulling, support staff person for the FD Applied Research and Evaluation Team, has accepted a new position with Hennepin County. Her last day at Family Development will be October 2. At this time, we will not be rehiring for this position. Instead, we will reorganize our existing support staff within FD administration. Here is the new structure effective September 24:

Jeanne Laqua supervises all FD administrative support staff (described below). She is the main source of support for Director of Programs Trish Olson, Director of Urban and Evaluation Mary Marczak, and the current Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Partnering for School Success grant. She works closely with me, her supervisor, to ensure that the whole support system is functioning effectively and efficiently.

Mark Schultz is the primary source of support for Health and Nutrition (H&N) Program Leader Trina Barno, H&N Program Director for Operations Renee Obrecht-Como, H&N Program Director for Special Projects, and Family Resiliency Program Leader Mary Jo Katras. He is also the suite manager for the 436 Coffey Hall office suite.

Rhonda Dragan is transitioning from a graphics design role to an administrative support role. She is the primary source of support for the FD Applied Research and Evaluation Team. This position will include many of the same roles that Kate Demulling filled. We'll be assessing needs and make changes to the position and the system as needed in the upcoming months. Rhonda is also the suite manager for the 495 Coffey Hall office suite.

Julia Gladhill continues as the primary source of support for Associate Dean Karen Shirer, as well as the FD center accountant (see announcement below). She is starting the role as the primary support for the three Extension educators in Children, Youth, & Family Consortium: Sara Langworthy, Cari Michaels, and Judy Myers. Julia is also the suite manager for the 405 Coffey Hall office suite.

These changes affect everyone on our administrative support staff. We appreciate their willingness to adapt to the current needs within the administrative office, and we appreciate the patience of all FD staff in this time of transition.


Heather Lee
Educational Resource Development and Support Manager

New Family Development Center Accountant

We are happy to announce that a hire has been made for the FD Center Accountant position. Sue Young will start Monday, October 5, and will be housed in Coffey Hall. With over 19 years of experience as an accountant at the University of Minnesota, Sue has a wide range of experience working with both sponsored and non-sponsored accounts. Please welcome Sue into her new role as you have the opportunity to work with her in the upcoming weeks.


Heather Lee
Educational Resource Development and Support Manager

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Listening to the Music — and Our Environment

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

Daughters Sophia (9) and Josie (6).
Two of my daughters have taken Suzuki violin lessons for the past five years. One main tenet of the Suzuki method has resonated with me over the years and is applicable to the ways we work in Extension.

At the center of the Suzuki method is the tenet, "All people can learn from their environment.” Recently, my daughters’ violin teacher Susan shared the importance of environment. She said that every time she is in an orchestra practice or performance, she learns from those around her. It is not only about listening to the music around her, but rather the nuances of the piece and the roles of different instruments throughout the song. She emphasized that it takes practice to become a good listener to those around you and that the more you put yourself in that environment, the better your listening skills become.

Introducing Two New SNAP-Ed Educators

This week, we welcome two new SNAP-Ed educators to the Health and Nutrition team:
  • Peter Ekadu joined the Southwest Region SNAP-Ed Team on September 8 in Yellow Medicine County. Peter is originally from Uganda. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Development Economics degree, a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Administration, and a Master of Science degree in Health Services Administration. He enjoys working with low-income communities on health promotion and prevention strategies. He has previously done research on holistic health promotion in  “bateyes" (company towns where sugar workers live) in the Dominican Republic. He also started and coordinated an Employee Diabetes Prevention Program at McLaren-Central Michigan Hospital. He is excited to continue working with diverse groups and individuals to promote healthy living and better nutrition in his new role.
  • Beth Labenz joined the Southwest Region SNAP-Ed Team on September 8 in Watonwan County. Beth has a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a minor in Community Health. She spent the last five years working as an optician and optometric technician at an eye clinic, teaching patients the importance of preventive health care. She is familiar with the St. James area in which she’ll be working, as she did an internship with Watonwan County Public Health and she grew up near Welcome, MN, which is 20 minutes south of St. James. Beth is looking forward to moving back to the area and working to improve the health and lifestyles of the people living there.

To see where Peter, Beth, and other educators fit in Family Development, visit About FD: Organizational Charts (sign in required).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Think Global, Work Local

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs

My heart is heavy as I write this on Friday, September 11, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
I was asked to write my reflections on the Family Development regional visits to date, and with 9/11 on my mind, I reflect on the importance of the expansion of our work to incorporate policies, systems, and environments as we plan our programs.

Word Matters: Uncle Sam Wants You to Fight Gobbledygook

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
 
Did you know that Congress passed the Plain Writing Act in 2010? The act — and subsequent executive orders — require that federal publications are written in a way "the public can understand and use." Among other things, official communications must use the active voice, avoid double negatives, and eliminate jargon and clunky coined words like "incentivising."

Introducing a New SNAP-Ed Educator

Donna Anderson has joined the Northwest Region of Minnesota as a SNAP-Ed educator, working out of Park Rapids in Hubbard County. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education. Donna has previously worked as a community nutrition educator in Wadena County. She started her new job September 8.

To see where Donna and other educators fit in Family Development, visit About FD: Organizational Charts (sign in required).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Learning to See One Minnesota

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation

"I make mistakes; I'll be the second to admit it."
— Jean Kerr, American playwright

I am still trying to figure out how I could have been so wrong!

For almost a decade, I sat in my St. Paul campus office and ran numbers that described Minnesota — populations, health statistics, poverty and family income, social service access, school demographics, you name it! And yet, I still held on to the notion that there are two Minnesotas: “urban” Minnesota and “greater” Minnesota. In my head, this dichotomy and the resulting need for different kinds of programmatic response made perfect sense.

Fall Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter Now Available

The September–October issue of the Latino Financial Literacy Program Newsletter is now available. In this issue, you will find the following articles:
This newsletter is made possible by the University of Minnesota Latino Financial Literacy Team, in collaboration with the FD communications team:
  • Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension Educator
  • Gabriela Burk, Financial Literacy Program Assistant
  • Jose Lamas, Community Program Associate
  • Francisca Mendoza, Community Program Associate
  • Sara Croymans, Extension Educator
  • Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate
  • Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
  • Heather Lee, Project Manager
The most recent edition of the Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter in both English and Spanish can be accessed here: http://z.umn.edu/lflt.

Jessica Barnes
Communications Associate

Check out CYFC’s New Resources on Historical Trauma!

Cari Michaels, Extension Educator — CYFC

A microaggressive image.
This March, the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) team released a series of short videos on the topic of Historical Trauma and Cultural Healing:
After posting the videos, we received requests from people both inside and outside Extension for training and facilitation. As a result, we developed a variety of resources that reflect the research about historical trauma, microaggressions, and cultural healing. These new resources are available on our Historical Trauma and Cultural Healing web page and include:
We welcome you to use these resources on your own and also offer our services as facilitators. If you are interested in something more than a one-hour introduction to the topic, we can refer you to other trainers, including the speakers in the videos. Contact CYFC to with any questions or requests.

MFLN Family Transitions Hosts Webinar on Social Media

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

The team behind the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Family Transitions Concentration Area is hosting a webinar on Engaging Military Families on Social Media on September 17 at 10 a.m. The webinar is for professionals working with military families to build resilience and navigate life cycle transitions, but the basic principles discussed can be applied to FD educators work with all types of families.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Cultural Adaptation of Diabetes Prevention Program Continues

SNAP-Ed Educator Nimo Yusuf.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education
(SNAP-Ed) makes the healthy choice the easy choice
for Minnesotans with limited financial resources.
Southwest Minnesota is home to diverse food cultures, lifestyles, and family traditions. This year, two Southwest Minnesota communities and University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition staff are working together to ensure that a promising program is adapted for the food and lifestyle of Somali populations.

Eighteen members of the Somali community gathered at Jefferson Learning Center in Willmar on August 30, 2015 to talk with Health and Nutrition staff about ways to prevent diabetes in their community. Nutrition educators Abdulahi Dohe and Nimo Yusuf, along with cultural guides hired from the Willmar community, led two focus groups in the first phase of culturally adapting the I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD) program.

Somali community members shared ideas that were incorporated into a culturally-adapted ICANPD program, which is being offered in Willmar starting February 2016. ICANPD is a national program designed for people with prediabetes to help them make lifestyle changes to prevent the disease.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Musings from Round One of Regional Visits

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

On August 14, the Family Development leadership team completed the first four meetings with FD staff across the state. We learned so much about the four regions we visited. Staff members were asked to bring three challenges they saw in their region’s work, families, and communities. Many brought articles clipped from newspapers or printed from websites. Others brought photographs or simply shared what was going on. In this week’s column, I wanted to share, too. Here are some recurring themes and issues I heard discussed at the regional meetings:

Networking for Change

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — Health & Nutrition

Registration is open for the 2015 Food Access Summit, to be held November 8 to 10 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Five hundred participants will build on existing partnerships, collaborations, and alliances to strengthen and expand the work of individuals and agencies.

Photo Credit: Lindsi Gish
Posted by Food Access Summit on Friday, November 14, 2014

Healthy food access is a grand challenge for all regions of Minnesota. Like all grand challenges, this one requires the energy and creativity of multiple sectors, including:
  • Agriculture
  • Anti-hunger organizers
  • Tribal
  • Community development
  • Education
  • Retail
  • Health
  • Philanthropy
Extension staff in general and FD staff in particular are well-positioned to address food access, so we encourage you to participate in the workshops, networking, and issue-area strategic discussions at the Food Access Summit. These venues promise to energize and connect conference participants. Together, we can implement strategies to create an equitable food system for all, from the producer to the consumer.

Review the full schedule and breakout workshops and register for the conference on the Food Access Summit 2015 website.

Critical Conversations About Diversity and Justice

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate

The U of M Office of Equity and Diversity and University Libraries are co-sponsoring “Critical Conversations About Diversity and Justice” for the fourth consecutive year. This series of seven panel conversations, which starts in October 2015 and continues through April 2016, covers the following topics:
  • #Connected or #Disaffected? Diversity and the Power of Pop Culture and Social Media (October 9)
  • Queer Histories (Queering History) of the Twin Cities (October 30)
  • Limiting Liberty: The Recurring Collision of Free Speech and Religion (November 20)
  • A Failing Grade? Addressing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps in Public Education (January 29)
  • Our Somali Neighbors: Learning More about Somali Culture and Community (February 26)
  • Hit 'em Again: Is Violence an Essential Thread in the Fabric of American Society? (March 25)
  • 25 Years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Public Policy, Personal Attitudes, and Social Change (April 22)
Every conversation in the series takes place on a Friday, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the Givens Conference Room, 120 Elmer Andersen Library, on the U’s West Bank Campus. Each event will be livestreamed and video recorded. Put the dates on your calendar today and learn more at the “Critical Conversations” website.

Introducing a New SNAP-Ed Educator

Alica Whitmore joined the Southwest Region SNAP-Ed Team on August 27 as a SNAP-Ed Educator located in Redwood County. Alica has a bachelor’s degree in Youth Development Studies and brings a wide array of professional and volunteer experience to the position. Previously, Alica championed educational and food equity in North Minneapolis. She is excited to participate in the collaborative and comprehensive approach towards holistic health and accessibility that U of M Extension takes. Alica enjoys biking, discovering new foods, and meeting new neighbors.

Bonnie Christiansen
Regional Coordinator, Health and Nutrition


Editor’s note: See all FD job openings here: Employment and Jobs: Family Development.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Art of Creating Community

By Renee Obrecht-Como, Program Operations Director — Health & Nutrition

I’ve had many conversations over the years with Family Development colleagues and others about the joys of creative expression, such as cooking healthy and delicious meals, storytelling, and making music, crafts, or art. Educators certainly know these hands-on activities facilitate learning and skill-development. Recently, I was inspired by the ways that working together on artistic activities, or displaying them in public spaces where people gather, also facilitates creating community.

Word Matters: Perplexing Pronouns

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
 
"The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they can be seen in the church basement Friday afternoon."

Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images

Bad writing does occasionally provide a welcome moment of hilarity, as this example from a church bulletin cited in the book “Sin and Syntax” shows. But mostly, bad writing is confusing — and we want our writing to be clear.

Unfortunately, the potential to create murky prose lies everywhere in the process of writing. Some "opportunities" to confuse readers occur at the big-picture, structural level, while others occur at the word, phrase, or sentence level. This month, I'm going to focus on an opportunity in the latter categories: vague and faulty pronoun references. By monitoring your pronoun use, you can keep your readers from becoming dazed and confused.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Taking Time to Reflect — and Meet Grand Challenges

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs

What feelings does this image provoke for you? I used to feel irritation, but now I feel something quite different — pride.


Celebrate ADA Anniversary by Tearing Down 'Virtual' Barriers

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
 
I recently read an eye-opening article in the Wall Street Journal with an eye-opening headline: "The Challenges of Surfing While Blind." The article was written by DeAnn Elliott, a Boston-based disability advocate who is legally blind. She wasn't writing about surfing on the ocean, though. Instead, she was writing about surfing the Internet.

Elliott no longer sees a computer screen well enough to use a mouse to point and click. Instead, she uses software that reads the screen to her in a voice that she says “sounds like Stephen Hawking's." The software relies on text labels that identify photos and other graphical objects on screen, such as buttons, charts, and maps.

Unfortunately, the map Elliott confronted didn't include any text labels, known as “alt-text” in web speak, that the screen reader could "see." Elliott described the map as a “brick wall,” and wrote that being asked to click on it (instead of choosing her home state from a list) was "akin to being in a wheelchair and encountering a flight of stairs."

Why am I repeating Elliott's story? Because this year is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a good time to think about what disabled people face every day. It's also a good time to think about the ADA's impact.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cultural Adaptation of I CAN Prevent Diabetes Underway

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health & Nutrition

Southwest Minnesota's diverse population is home to various food cultures, lifestyles, and family traditions. This year, two Southwest Minnesota communities and Extension Health and Nutrition staff are working together to ensure that a promising program is adapted for the food and lifestyles of Latino and Somali cultures.

I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD) is a research-based, national program for people with prediabetes. The lifestyle changes practiced in the year-long course can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, with potential for a dramatic positive impact on participants' long-term health. To adapt ICANPD, SNAP-Ed Educators Leticia Rodriguez in Worthington and Abdulahi Dohe in Willmar are working alongside cultural liaisons from their communities, as well as other Extension staff.

The Minnesota Department of Health is partnering to provide funding for the project, which will result in general insights into cultural adaptation processes, as well as adapted ICANPD course materials.

Related posts:

Friday, August 14, 2015

A New Look at Fruits and Vegetables in Schools

By Mary Schroeder, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

On August 13, 60 school food service staff in the west central Minnesota attended a three-hour training on fruits and vegetables in Fergus Falls. The training was part of the annual school food service training by sponsored by the Lakes Country Service Cooperative and facilitated by University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition staff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When a Country Redefines ‘Family’

By Dylan L. Galos, MS, and Eugene Hall, MA, Graduate Research Assistants — Family Development; and Jenifer McGuire, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist — Department of Family Social Science

This is the first of two articles on the effects of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a historical decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. This decision, which has implications for the work we do in Family Development, is not the first time that the definition of marriage has changed, nor is it the first change that took a long time (this movement in the U.S. began in earnest several decades ago). Many people once considered interracial and interfaith marriage unthinkable, and interracial marriage was once illegal in a number of states. Public opinion on same-sex marriage has seen decades of slow progress, with majority approval in the United States only reached within the past five years. For context, we include data from a Gallup poll on public opinion from 1996–2014:

The Definition of ‘Family’ is Changing, and It Matters to Our Work

By Dylan L. Galos, MS, and Eugene Hall, MA, Graduate Research Assistants — Family Development; and Jenifer McGuire, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist — Department of Family Social Science

This is the second of two articles on the effects of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriages are legal in all states, causing a sea change in policy across the nation. In addition to expanding the definition of marriage, the ruling on who can marry whom also changes our definitions of family — we touched on that in the first of these two articles. While it’s important for family researchers, evaluators, and practitioners in FD to understand policy changes emanating from the Supreme Court ruling, our focus must be on how those policy changes affect our focus on inclusivity. As we consider this expansion in the definition of family, we in Family Development have to find ways to expand our capabilities to include sexual and gender minority (SGM) families in our work. Like so many other issues in research, this one begins with discussing assumptions.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Grand Challenges in Employee and Community Engagement

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

All of us face “grand challenges” in our personal lives from time to time — these are the serious, almost unsolvable problems that fundamentally change our lives. Over the last year, I had two of my own grand challenges — a bout with lymphoma and a granddaughter born six weeks early. The year brought lots of tough decisions for my family, but also great opportunities to experience success, healthy development and recovery, and resilience. Both of my challenges are in a good place today: I am six months into complete remission and Lucia celebrates her first birthday on August 2 as a developmentally on-time toddler.

Partners for Affordable Housing — and Healthy Eating

By Rachel Jones, SNAP-Ed Educator and Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate — Health and Nutrition

What do housing and health have in common? In Mankato, the answer is Partners for Affordable Housing (PAH).

PAH strives not only to help clients secure long-term housing but also to improve the health and nutrition of their families being served. The shared goal of improved nutrition and cooking skills forms the basis of the ongoing partnership between SNAP-Ed Educator Rachel Jones and PAH. And the class series that brings it all together? Cooking Matters® Minnesota.

Healthy Blog, Happy Readers

By Sara Langworthy, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium

There’s a new blog in town. CYFC’s "Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners" (HBML) blog shares the exciting evolution of our partnership with Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul (for more on the project, check out our website). The blog, written by project staff, documents and shares the program growth with our partners and those who might benefit from knowing more about our efforts.

In our most recent entry, Graduate Assistant Nora Fox shares her experience of getting neighbors and children involved in picking some of the ripe vegetables in the garden:
This past Saturday I packed up my gardening tools, new puppy, and dirty tennis shoes and headed to the community garden at Bruce Vento. I hadn’t thought to bring extra paper bags for the vegetables to be harvested, but I wish I had! Read more and subscribe »

Through the HBML blog, we are raising the profile of our community-engaged work that creatively leverages University and community resources in partnership to promote the health and well-being of children and families in the Bruce Vento community. The blog serves as a way to capture the process of our community-based partnership work, and as a means of communication for telling the Bruce Vento story in an engaging, efficient way. Read the latest blog post and subscribe via email today at Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners.

Should We Use Social Media to Reach Our Audience?

By Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate

The question of how to use social media has been difficult for me to answer. Why do we spend time, money, and energy maintaining social media accounts for Family Development? Why should FD staff and educators use their personal accounts for professional use? The answer, I have found, is because we are in the relationship business.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FD Accountant Betsy Leverty Retiring

With heavy hearts, we announce that Family Development's beloved accountant, Betsy Leverty, will be retiring on August 7.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Walking as a Team

SNAP-Ed educator Leticia Rodriguez (in blue and white)
poses with members of her interdisciplinary team — and Elvis.
On May 4–6, University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Leticia Rodriguez attended the Action Institute Walkability Conference in Nashville, TN. Walkability, according to Steve Abley, is "the extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area." The conference addressed policy, systems, and environmental changes and interventions to increase population levels of physical activity with a focus on walking.

Southwest Minnesota was represented by an interdisciplinary team that included representatives from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), Minnesota Department of HealthMinnesota Department of Transportation, and Southwest Regional Development Commission.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Participation Makes the Difference

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs — Family Development 

“If we want people to be part of the solution, they must be part of the thinking,” said America Bracho, M.D., the executive director of Latino Health Access (LHA), a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Orange County, California. I heard those words last week, when I was privileged to join a group from Minnesota and Iowa that visited LHA. There, we learned how staff and volunteers implement LHA’s theory of change based on a foundational belief that everyone is a leader. Class participants are looked at not only as learners, but people who could be future promotores — change agents in their communities.

Word Matters: What’s in a Name—‘Children’ and ‘Youth’

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
 
Here’s a phrase I keep seeing when I edit public documents for Family Development: “children and youth.” Since part of my work is to look at things from the eyes of ordinary readers, I began to wonder what the difference in meaning between the two words might be.

My initial thoughts were that “children” refers to anyone from roughly toddlerhood to the pre-teen years and that children are a sub-set (or part) of “youth,” which also encompasses teenagers. That led me to ask, “Why not just say ‘youth’ in our public communications?” But then my thoughts turned to young adults. Aren’t they also called “youth” or “youths?” What’s more, would everyone understand that the term “youth” encompasses all three categories? Or is more specificity required?

Regional Visits Scheduled in August, September

By Heather Lee, Project Manager

As shared during the June “FD Updates” webinar, FD leadership will soon be making "the rounds" to every region of the state. The purpose of these meetings will be for FD leadership to do the following:
  • Engage with the entire range of FD staff in each region.
  • Answer questions about the 2014 Employee Engagement Survey.
  • Learn more about each region’s “grand” challenges, including building on the culture and diversity discussion from April’s conference.
Regional visits are planned for the following dates and locations:

Summer Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter Now Available

By Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate

The July–August issue of the Latino Financial Literacy Program Newsletter is now available! In this issue, you will find the following articles:

  • Preparing for the New School Year
  • The Importance of Renter's Insurance
  • Cooking and Preserving Salsa Safely
This newsletter is made possible by the University of Minnesota Latino Financial Literacy Team, in collaboration with the FD communications team:
  • Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension Educator
  • Gabriela Burk, Financial Literacy Program Assistant
  • Jose Lamas, Community Program Associate
  • Francisca Mendoza, Community Program Associate
  • Sara Croymans, Extension Educator
  • Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate
  • Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
  • Heather Lee, Project Manager
The most recent edition of the Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter in both English and Spanish can be accessed here: http://z.umn.edu/lflt. For more information about the newsletter, read the May 18 article.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FD Offers Valuable Resources for ‘Tough Times’

By Heather Lee, Project Manager

As highlighted in earlier Family Matters blog posts and other venues, Family Development has embarked on an exciting tri-state effort with South Dakota and Iowa related to the human side of avian influenza. As part of that effort, we have developed a web page devoted to the “human side” of avian flu. FD websites contain many valuable resources for families experiencing a range of other "tough times," too. Here are examples of our resources for families and the professionals who serve them:

There’s a New Savings Game in Town

By Sharon Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

On June 14, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a prize-linked savings (PLS) bill into law. PLS programs have been successful throughout the world and in a few American states in encouraging people to save money, but until recently federal legislation has prohibited most states from promoting the programs. Passage of new federal legislation in December 2014 cleared the way for states to approve PLS accounts for all banking institutions. Minnesota is now one of 14 states where opening a PLS account will be possible for consumers.

The bill hasn’t garnered much attention in the media, but the consequences of its passage could be significant for Minnesota citizens who have had difficulty saving money. PLS accounts combine the fun of prize drawings with the financial advantage of building savings. Here’s how PLS accounts work: People open a savings account that allows the chance to win prizes by making deposits; typically, small drawings are held every month and bigger drawings are held less frequently (maybe once or twice a year).

My, How Things Have Changed!

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Do you know what the machine pictured below is and what it was used for?

Mystery machine. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Until the early 1990s (in some schools and Extension offices even later), the mimeograph machine was the tool of choice to make copies of materials for classes and newsletters. An invention of Thomas A. Edison, the mimeograph machine made printed copies using typed stencil. My, how things have changed over the past 25 years!

Both the tools we use to create our learning resources and the way we carry out our work has changed.
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