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Extension > Family Matters > September 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


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.

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.
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