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Extension > Family Matters > March 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflecting on Our ‘Artistry of Practice’

By Mary Marczak, Research and Evaluation Specialist

Mary Marczak
A recent conversation with my mother made me laugh. A devout Catholic who attends church twice a week, she told me rather derisively about “Catholic CEO’s.” She didn’t mean the ones who run major companies — she was talking about the “Christmas and Easter Only” churchgoers! Easter, which is this coming Sunday, April 5, is considered the holiest day on the Christian calendar — explaining the 30 percent or so increase in church attendance that day.

The arrival of Easter also marks the end of Lent — the 40 days leading up to Easter when Christians reflect on past actions and ways of being. This act of reflection prepares them to renew their covenant (a contract or promise) at Easter to act in ways that brings them closer to God.

Qualey-Skjervold Conference Preview: Focusing Your Cultural Lens

By Heather Lee, Project Manager

The planning committee for the 2015 Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference is excited to announce an important session related to the topic of social justice at the conference, set for April 8-9 at the University’s Landscape Arboretum. The session, titled “Focusing Your Cultural Lens for Cultural Self-Study,” is closely linked to a conference focus area — to explore how the concept of “culture” varies by individual. How we define and approach others with similar or different cultures than our own significantly affects the outcomes of our work.

Cultural self-study helps us to “see” (become more consciously aware) of how European-American cultural characteristics and values have become normalized and embedded within our institutional structures, mental models, and academic disciplines. Our partners and guides through this exploration will be Craig Hassel, Ph.D. and Sara Axtell, both with the University, as well as independent consultant Janice Barbee. These three are affiliated with Healing Roots, an organization that creates learning opportunities for people of European heritage to study their own culture and history in order to become agents of change in creating a healthy society. They will emphasize the importance of culture as a resource and a healthy cultural identity as essential to doing just work across cultures. The Healing Roots motto is: “To better appreciate what other cultures have to offer, we must appreciate culture within ourselves.”

For more background information on this exploration into culture, please review Dr. Hassel’s article, Practicing the Craft of Cross-Cultural Engagement. Written in 2005, it still rings true today and can give you food for thought in preparation for the upcoming conference.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Expanding FD's Internship Efforts

By Heather Lee, Project Manager<

While many Family Development staff have been long-time users of interns and volunteers, we hadn't developed an official process for accepting, managing, and tracking these individuals. Given changes in U of M policy and increasing interest in exploring Extension's best practices related to volunteer management, FD leadership is working toward standardizing and better managing FD's own internship and volunteer process.

We're happy to announce that we are ready to roll out Phase One of that project! Last month, we put a call out to FD supervisors and administration for internship possibilities within their programs. Earlier today, we launched FD's new Internship Opportunities website, the go-to place to explore paid and unpaid internship possibilities, and to apply for one of our internship opportunities.

Health and Nutrition Portfolio Plan Update

By Stephanie Heim, Assistant Program Director — Health and Nutrition

In January, those of us on the Health and Nutrition team unveiled a Portfolio Plan to inventory and reach consensus on our collective work. (See January 20 Family Matters blog post for details.) To encourage and strengthen the integration of Health and Nutrition work in Family Development, we will be providing regular updates highlighting relevant milestones. Here's what's new:
  • A request for applications (RFA) will be released this spring for the SNAP-Ed Opportunity Identification Initiative. This initiative will give us an opportunity to learn from our partner organizations, our primary audience in 2015.
  • Plans for team building and staff development, especially for those who supervise others, are in the making.
  • The work groups identified in the timeline are still under development, with focused attention being given to intersections with FD-wide activity.

For more details, check out the full blog post on the Food For Thought blog: Spring Portfolio Plan Update.

On Internships and Learning

By Trish Olson, Assistant to the Associate Dean — Center for Family Development

As I was reflecting on FD's new internship initiative, I looked up Webster's definition of "intern" and found three definitions:
  1. Internal (archaic)
  2. To confine
  3. A student or recent graduate who works for a period of time at a job in order to get experience.
These three definitions are an excellent foundation to share with you our reasons for and commitment to expanding our reach through partnering with interns.

Contrary to the archaic meaning of the word, the first reason is to be "less internal." One great way for Family Development to grow and learn is through expanding our partnership with interns. Interns will come to us with new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new knowledge to challenge us and stretch us. I use the word "partnership" boldly — while interns learn from us through work opportunities, we also learn from them. Otherwise, the internship program would not be successful.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Virtues of ‘Thrashing Early’

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

“Thrash early!” This was the advice from author, public speaker, entrepreneur, and marketer Seth Godin in response to a question at a 99u conference about how he “finishes stuff” (skip to 10:00 of this video: Keep Making a Ruckus).

Godin uses the term thrashing in the sense of thrashing out: “To talk over thoroughly and vigorously in order to reach a decision, conclusion, or understanding; discuss exhaustively” (see definition #12 at Dictionary.com: thrashing). Godin proposes that this stage is necessary, but that it often occurs at the wrong point in a project, thereby sabotaging timelines, productivity, and deliverables. All too often, people begin by running with an idea and then thrashing, with delays or eventual abandonment the frequent result. A more efficient and effective process, according to Godin, is to thrash out an idea first, then decide whether to commit to it or abandon it, with further thrashing shunted to the side in order to finish the project or move on.

New Staff Join FD to Assist Military Families Learning Network

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate

Extension Center for Family Development was selected to help with the work of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN), which serves military family service professionals around the world. FD is assisting MFLN in the area of Family Lifecycle Transition Support for Families and has hired two staff members who started March 16: Anita Harris Hering and Amy Majerle.


Anita comes to us from the Center for Youth Development and brings with her a wealth of experiences as an educator and as a volunteer and chair of one of Minnesota’s largest Beyond the Yellow Ribbon regional initiatives. She also has volunteered with Operation Military Kids. She will be working as an Extension educator out of the St. Cloud regional office.

Amy comes to us as a retiree from the Minnesota Air National Guard, with 22 years of service including overseas deployment. She will work part time on this project while continuing her graduate studies in the Department of Family and Social Science.

Anita and Amy will identify, develop, and deliver professional development, resources and tools to increase the capacity, knowledge, and skills of professional staff who work with military service members and their families. Anita and Amy also will compile information on research and best practices in assistance to military families.

The new staff members will work closely with Extension educators Sara Croymans (principal investigator of the cooperative agreement), Ellie McCann, and Mary Jo Katras, as well as MFLN state and national teams.

To learn more about this project, read FD Selected to Help Military Family Service Professionals Worldwide,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Just What Is EFNEP?

By Cassandra Silveira, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

When I first saw the job posting for an EFNEP Extension Educator, I thought to myself, “EF-what?!?” I imagine a lot of community agencies and the general public might have a similar reaction when they see that acronym.

But when I dug a little deeper, I learned that the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is one of the oldest nutrition education programs in the United States. EFNEP was started by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1968 and operates in all 50 states and some territories. EFNEP started out using a home visit one-on-one model, which has largely been discontinued.

Today, EFNEP provides an experiential learning experience — there are often good smells coming from an EFNEP classroom! What’s more, participants acquire the knowledge and skills to make behavior changes aimed at improving their family’s diet and well-being. Additionally, participants learn how to incorporate more physical activity into everyday living.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Remembering Selma in Minnesota

By Trish Olson, Assistant to the Associate Dean

I heard on the news that approximately 70,000 people crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma, AL this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On March 7, 1965, state troopers and county sheriffs’ deputies attacked civil rights marchers using tear gas and billy clubs rather than let them cross the bridge. This week, I would like us to take time to remember a 1931 incident in Minneapolis that reminds Minnesotans of our own struggles with racism.

Disaster Recovery Videos Available

By Lori Hendrickson, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

With spring right around the corner, and the potential for flooding that implies, we’re pleased to announce the release of the Financial Recovery After Disaster Video Series, a just-in-time educational tool. The videos can be used by themselves or in conjunction with other disaster recovery efforts. The videos were produced in partnership by the University of Minnesota Extension and the North Dakota State University Extension Service, and are based on Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit.

Each video works either as a stand-alone resource or as part of a series to gain better understanding of the challenges that families face on the road toward financial recovery following a disaster. The videos are appropriate for professionals and volunteers to use in assisting survivors or for survivors to use themselves. The videos are available to stream from the Financial Recovery After Disaster Video Series web page.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Word Matters: Energize Your Writing

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor

Although temperatures have been up and down, there's a sense of anticipation as spring approaches. You can feel the energy in the air. So how about energizing your writing? Here are three techniques to do that.​

Declutter


Decluttering is an essential way to add energy to your writing. As one of my favorite writers on writing, William Zinsser says, “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there.” How do you recognize clutter? Look for needless words and needless “big” words.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Quilting and Extension – Is There a Parallel?

By Rosi Heins, Acting Program Leader — Family Resiliency

Quilting has become an important part of my life — it’s a way to figure out a puzzle, create a tangible item with purpose, and it’s an art form I enjoy! Last fall, while I was still in full retirement, I had the opportunity to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.

From the National Quilt Museum website.

I was thoroughly amazed by the originality, skill, inspiration, imagination, creativity, vision, and ingenuity of the quilts on display. It was apparent the quilters followed their passion and put years into their extraordinary works of art!
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