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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!

One museum program is an annual contest that attracts entries from all over the world. The winning quilter may choose to take the $25,000 prize money for which their quilt becomes part of the museum collection; or they can forego the cash award, and keep their quilt. The monetary prize isn’t the goal for some — they want the honor of winning and the quilt has significant meaning to them.

Now, stretch your imagination to equate quilting to what we do in Extension. I found the basic tasks of quilting parallel to the art of succeeding at work and gaining promotion in Extension.

Quilting Tasks Extension Tasks
Determine the need and purpose for the quilt Scholarship (research, gather ideas)
Engagement (create something of value with or for others)
Assemble the quilt top; this includes design choice, fabric selection, cutting, and sewing Program Leadership (show innovation, select methods to be used)
Extension Teaching (develop competency in material development and share with a mentor and others)
“Quilt the sandwich:” Put the layers together; perform actual quilting; complete binding Program Management (handle financing and the logistics of getting the work done)
Extension Teaching (same as above plus evaluation)
Share and use Service (show evidence of professional work with others)
Scholarship (share results with others)

After reading this, you may be saying to yourself, “This woman must have been reading Performance Self-Assessments!” You would be right! What’s more, reading the self-assessments reminded me of a saying by Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” As I reviewed the documents, I found many examples of staff choosing work that they love and for which they have a passion.

Extension work is evaluated on standards of excellence for your position. Your work in Extension is an art — just like the quilters who submit their creations to the National Quilt Museum. So keep doing what you’re doing, and do it right and well. You might not win a $25,000 prize, but your intangible rewards are many. And you might just get promoted!
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