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Showing posts from 2018

Part 1. Looking back

Karen Shirer, associate dean

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” (Charles Dickens, The Tale of Two Cities, 1859).

These words both capture the place I find myself today and define my work career as I reflect on it. I am finding this in-between time— when I am still working but also fast approaching retirement — a time for looking back and reflecting on the story of my “work” career. I put the word “work” in quotes because like most of us work played a primary role in my growth and development, and is deeply intertwined with other aspects of my life — marriage, children, hobbies and interests, etc.

Guatemala partnership continues to flourish

Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension educator

Our work in partnership with University of San Carlos of Guatemala continues as part of our agreement signed in 2016 with the support of Dean Durgan. One of the aims of this partnership is to build the capacity of faculty and students working with families and youth in professional practice before graduation. This practice, called Professional Supervised Exercise (EPS in Spanish), is a mandatory internship for students. EPS is engagement in a community to assess needs, develop projects and partnerships with local organizations to promote wellbeing. The faculty and students do this with support from San Carlos University Extension which has the same mission as our land grant University here in Minnesota.

The students spend one semester in communities in need, and with families and youth that face many challenges and risks from poverty and marginalization. We shared with the faculty the way we work with families and youth. We also talked abou…

Congratulations Jennifer!

Michael Brott, communications manager

Jennifer Garbow, Extension educator in family resiliency, received the Thrivent Personal Finance Community Educator Award at Econfest an annual event hosted by the Minnesota Council on Economic Education. Way to go Jennifer!

Grab a cup and join in on December 14

Emily Becher, research associate

The next Coffee with Coffey is December 14 at 10 a.m. Based on feedback from the last session, we are keeping with the current format of having members of the leadership team respond to previously submitted questions. After the webinar, a survey will be sent out and you can anonymously provide feedback and submit questions and suggestions for future Coffee with Coffey sessions.

Celebrating 50 years of EFNEP

By Cassie Silveira, Extension educator in health and nutrition and state coordinator for EFNEP

Earlier this fall, my children’s grandparents celebrated their 50th or Golden Anniversary. Several thoughts occurred to me. “FIFTY YEARS! That’s a lot of time together. I wonder how they have changed. I wonder what has endured over time.” “How do you celebrate a 50th Anniversary? A big party, hopefully, with friends and family.”

Congratulations Trish Olson!

Karen Shirer, associate dean

On Friday it was announced that Trish Olson will be the new Associate dean for Family Development, effective at the end of December. Trish brings many qualities into the position — her years of service in Extension, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and devotion to helping Minnesota’s families thrive just to name a few. Over the next six weeks, we will be working together to ensure a smooth transition.

Please join me in congratulating Trish!

Hello from Trish Hello,

I am honored to be selected to be your new Associate Dean.

In the next few weeks, I will be reaching out to connect with everyone in our center. Please look for a calendar invite for a google hangout or a visit to your office. I also welcome invitations to events or team meetings to attend, please let me know.

I look forward to this new phase in my Extension journey — serving Minnesota residents through supporting and leading the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Developme…

Welcome to your new role Erin

Trina Adler, program leader

A big welcome to Erin Ostrowski into a new role as Anoka SHIP Educator! Many of you know Erin as a seasoned SNAP-Ed educator serving the twin cities metro area. Erin has been in that role since 2014, and has worked with a variety of audiences and partners. She has served instrumental roles on several teams, including the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Committee and ELL Curriculum Development team. Prior to her work with SNAP-Ed, Erin supported the Cooking Matters program as an assistant program coordinator. Erin draws experience and skills not only from her professional career but also from her volunteer work in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Ghana, Africa. Please offer your congratulations and support to Erin in her new role, which includes connecting Extension’s stellar resources to opportunities in Anoka County. And if you want to grab a cup of coffee with her to offer your congratulations, you may want to know that she claims she plays a “mean game of cribbage.” S…

Let us share your good work!

Michael Brott, communications manager

We are in a season of gratitude, and I want to take this time to thank all of you for the amazing work you do with and on behalf of Minnesota’s families.

As you know, Family Matters serves as both an internal and external publication about the great work of FD and related interesting content. I am keenly interested in the work you do and what is happening in your area of the state. Thinking ahead to the close of this year and launching into 2019, please let me know if you are interested in contributing to Family Matters.

Well Connected Communities in Minnesota

Trina Adler, program leader

As many of you know, University of Minnesota Extension was selected as one of five land-grant universities to partner with the National 4-H Council and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve health in communities by building a culture of health through youth-adult partnerships. Well Connected Communities is taking place in three Minnesota locations. But what do Moorhead, Milan and St. Paul’s Frogtown/Rondo Neighborhood have in common? I am glad you asked!

Wikipedia, an example of Extension innovation

Ellie McCann, Extension educator

Several educators were invited to participate in a hands-on learning day on the St. Paul campus with Kristen Mastel, Outreach and Instruction librarian, to work on how we can use Wikipedia, but not as you might think.

Congratulations Sara, Becky and Jennifer!

Karen Shirer, associate dean

The Epsilon Sigma Phi – Pi Chapter president, Suzanne Driessen, honored several members at their 2018 celebration and awards social during Program Conference.
Please congratulate our family development colleagues!

Welcome to the team, Brody

Bonnie Christiansen, regional coordinator

Broderick (Brody) Wright joined the southwest region SNAP-Ed team on October 22 as a SNAP-Ed Educator in Lyon County. Brody graduated from Wayne State College in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in exercise science and coaching. After college, he worked as a personal trainer at the Worthington YMCA where he instructed exercise classes for young kids, teens, adults, and seniors. He is looking forward to teaching people about healthy living and showing fun and creative ways to add physical activity to their daily routines.

Why should you care about Data Viz?

Michael Brott, communications manager

Create reports that get read and data that gets used with the tips and tricks provided by our own Emily  Becher, and Youth Development’s Samantha Grant in this podcast. They give information on data visualization (data viz if you want to be hip) that you can use to help funders and stakeholders understand the impacts made in youth development program. Listen now at University of Minnesota Extension Youth Development podcast website.

Keeping the web fresh

Michael Brott, communications manager

It has been almost four months since the launch of the new website. Thanks to all of you, we are consistently sharing the good programs, research and education all across Extension. To keep our information timely and up to date, we have developed an intake form that will streamline requests to submit changes or fixes. Please use the FD website update form for all your web update needs. It is also linked on our intranet.

Reflections from Program Conference 2018

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader

Wow, I can’t believe that 2018 Program Conference has come and gone! As with most conferences, we anticipate a conference with excitement knowing we will see old colleagues and meet new ones, share about our work and learn from our colleagues. As we attend conference sessions and keynote presentations, our minds are often fully engaged with new ideas, new partnerships and sometimes even a plan for next steps. As we leave the final session, our minds may start to wander back into our day-to-day norm—how many unanswered emails do I have? Do I really have two MORE days of work ahead of me? Perhaps we start to mentally formulate a “to-do” list. Some of us can put those thoughts right out of our minds and reflect a bit longer on all that we experienced. For others, a sense of urgency sets in, and the conference becomes a distant memory as we are drawn back into our routines. Which of these are you?

I have learned that carving out time for reflection fo…

Project breakFAST Toolkit now in the national SNAP-Ed library

By Mary Schroeder, Extension educator

In 2012, several University of Minnesota Extension staff started working with the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Project breakFAST research study. The purpose of the study was to increase breakfast participation in high schools by implementing a grab and go breakfast. Breakfast participation in intervention schools increased by 49% more than comparison schools, and breakfast and participation by student breakfast skippers at intervention schools increased by 81% more than students at comparison schools.

New Developmental Parenting Highway online course is now available

By Ellie McCann, Extension educator, Becky Hagen Jokela, Extension educator, Kelly Kunkel, Extension educator, Kate Welshons, online learning specialist, Mary Jo Katras, program leader

Join author and researcher Jean Illsley Clarke, parent educator Lisa Krause, and a multidisciplinary team of University of Minnesota Extension educators in an exploration of dealing with overindulgence or any parenting problem by using the Developmental Parenting Highway. In parenting, like driving a car, it is better to stay in the center of the road, off the shoulders and out of the ditch. This class will teach parents, or professionals working with parents, about the four positive aspects of middle-of-the-road “driving” on the developmental parenting highway. Participants will also learn strategies for preventing overindulgence as children grow and develop.

Learn more about what this course covers at

New American Development Agency 4-H club enjoys first snow of the season at Buffalo River State Park

By Noelle Harden, Extension educator

On October 6, eleven diverse youth from a newly formed 4-H club participated in hands-on learning at the Minnesota State University Moorhead Science Center at Buffalo River State Park. State naturalist Paula Comeau provided an overview of the wildlife and natural amenities of the prairie landscape and guided a riverside hike during which the group got to enjoy the very first snowflakes of the season. Despite the cold weather, the youth had a great time learning about this wonderful natural recreation area just a few miles from Moorhead.

This opportunity was part of an emerging partnership between the University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the New American Development Agency, a nonprofit organization working to bridge cultures and help new Americans overcome language barriers and become integrated in the Moorhead/ Fargo area economically and socially. This partnership is sponsored by a Well Connected C…

Congratulations to Dean’s Award winners!

Karen Shirer, Associate dean

Dean Bev Durgan honored two of our family development employees at last week’s annual program conference. It is inspiring to recognize the work, dedication and impact of our colleagues.

Congratulations to this year’s faculty awards winners.

Congratulations to Jenifer McGuire and Antonio Alba Meraz who received a Dean’s Distinguished Award at #umnextpc! — Family Development (@UMNExtFD) October 2, 2018
Distinguished Campus-Based Faculty: Jenifer McGuire, associate professor and Extension specialist, Family Social Science

Distinguished Field-Based Faculty: Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension educator, family resiliency

Please reach out and congratulate Jenifer and Antonio!

Celebrating Minnesota’s schools and farmers

By Stephanie Heim, associate program director in health and nutrition

October is National Farm to School Month! This is a time when University of Minnesota Extension and statewide partners recognize the importance of farm to school practices as a way to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and teach children about where food comes from.

Lessons from the Field to focus on infant and early childhood mental health

By Cari Michaels, Extension educator, Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Jessica Barnes, communications associate

On October 29, 2018, Extension's Children, Youth and Family Consortium will host Lessons from the Field to participants in sites throughout Minnesota. This will be part of the two-day “Minnesota Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Multidisciplinary Conference” held in collaboration with the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health – Infant and Early Childhood Division (MACMH-IEC) and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Early Education and Development (CEED). This event is intended for all professionals who work with young children and families.

Applied Research and Evaluation team welcomes Obafemi O. Ogunleye

By Cassandra Silveira, Extension educator, EFNEP

The Applied Research and Evaluation team welcomed a new member on September 24. In his graduate research assistant role, Obafemi O. Ogunleye will support EFNEP in continuing the development and use of the EFNEP food recall app.

Congratulations to our recently promoted colleagues

By Karen Shirer, associate dean, Extension Center for Family Development

Dean Durgan recently recognized four of our family development colleagues for successfully completing Extension’s academic promotion process. Congratulations to all!

Welcome Jolene Harris

By Stephanie Hakes, regional coordinator,  SNAP-Ed 

On August 20 the SNAP-Ed Northeast Region team welcomed Jolene Harris. Jolene is housed in the Cass County Extension office in Pine River. She will be working with community partners to make the healthy choice the easy choice and increase physical activity options in Cass County.

Jolene has a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Bemidji State University and has worked in the health and education field for the last 15 years. She has a passion for healthy living and we are excited to have her join our team to share that passion with others through her position as a SNAP- Ed Educator.

U of M community-campus liaisons directory

The Office for Public Engagement has launched an online directory of community-campus liaisons within the University of Minnesota system. Community-campus liaisons serve in connecting roles between various communities and the University. The directory is searchable by campus and college, as well as by issue and topic area. To be included in the directory, send an email to

Thank you Mina Blyly-Strauss — researcher and artist

Dear colleagues,

I am excited for Mina Blyly-Strauss to share some of her dissertation study results with us. Mina has been sharing her talents with Extension as part of the Children, Youth and Family Consortium (CYFC) for six years — two years as a graduate student volunteer then four years as a graduate research assistant. Soon-to-be Dr. Blyly-Strauss when she defends her dissertation at the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD) in September, Mina is ready to launch the next phase of her career supporting children to thrive in the community. Though she is leaving Extension, the work she has been part of at CYFC will benefit scholars, professionals and families for many years.

Public health professional development event to feature Extension educators

By Kelly Kunkel, Extension educator — health and nutrition

Registration is now open for Minnesota Society for Public Health Education's (MN SOPHE) premier professional development event for public health education and promotion professionals. The intent of Inspiring Change: Unleashing the Power of Public Health Education is to give those working in health education/promotion and prevention encouragement and strategies to not only continue, but to thrive during unprecedented times of controversy and challenge.

I will be facilitating a panel discussion featuring Mary Krentz, Extension Educator, entitled —Why Does Hunger Matter? Exploring the Intersection Between Public Health Education And Food Insecurity In Minnesota.

Meet like-minded health professionals from across the state while listening to powerful speakers on current public health crises and solutions; a great chance to network with new colleagues and old friends. Free CHES credits and lunch included. Discounts for members …

Applied research and evaluation team welcomes new research assistant

By Anna Alba — executive office and administrative specialist

Mikayla Smith is a new graduate research assistant with the Applied Research and Evaluation team (ARE). She is attending the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Policy focusing on mass incarceration, specifically juvenile detention centers and education. Mikayla hopes to study both public and non-profit agencies that focus on judicial, criminal, and correctional fields to understand how they function and create best practices towards interrupting the pipelines that exist for youth/young adults in the United States.

Reflections on the American Indian Community of Practice

By Jennifer Garbow, Extension educator and associate Extension professor

University of Minnesota Extension established an American Indian Task Force (AITF) in 2006 to expand its work in Indian country through mutually beneficial community-University partnerships. The original three goals still hold true today:
Improve American Indian communities' access to and representation in the University; Provide staff development for Extension staff interested in working with American Indian populations;Develop, in partnership with American Indian communities, culturally appropriate programs using innovative approaches to achieve mutual goals.

Separation of Families

Dear Colleagues:

As many of you are aware, Dr. Katherine (Katie) Lingras is the Extension’s CYFC scholar in residence for 2018. Dr. Lingras serves on the faculty and co-directs the Early Childhood Mental Program in the UMN Department of Psychiatry.

I recently asked Dr. Lingras to write an article for Family Matters on the separation of families at the U.S. southern border, its impact on children and how we might respond. She specializes in social-emotional development in early and middle childhood, with an emphasis on children on children who experience traumatic events.

Coffee with Coffey next Friday

By Michael Brott, communications manager

Our bimonthly Coffee with Coffey will take place next Friday, August 17 at 10:00 am. We are excited that three educators will be sharing information about their work in the area of early childcare, and parenting. It is exciting to see how the topic cuts across all areas of FD.

Mary Schroeder — Health and nutrition in the child care setting
Cari Michaels — Our new CYFC Scholar's focus on early childhood mental health
Ellie McCann — Parenting classes inside of our corrections facilities

As you are aware, Family development has been growing this new format as a way to to provide a more informal opportunity for sharing and learning between off-campus staff and Coffey hall.

New intranet makeover underway

By Michael Brott, communications manager

As you know the Family Matters blog got a makeover last month. This month, it is the the newly formatted FD intranet. The site focuses on FD-related information. Most other relevant information you need as a University of Minnesota and Extension employee can be found on the myU portal and Extension intranet respectively.

While we are still updating information, the new site is cleaner, mobilly responsive and, we hope, an asset to your great work.

In robotics or Extension—engagement is the glue that holds everything together

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

I was recently reminded how multifaceted the work of Extension is. There are many parts that go into our work—leadership, teaching, scholarship, engagement, program management and service. I have come to realize each plays a critical role.

However, I think that as we work with new audiences to address grand challenges and wicked problems, and as we strive for innovation, engagement is especially critical. It is the glue of any work we do in our communities across Minnesota and with our colleagues nationally. At first glance, the role of engagement is not obvious. But if you look past the surface and examine the inner workings of a team, you will likely see what I mean!
A robotics team example Here’s a personal example. A few years ago when my oldest daughter, now 15 years old, was in 8th grade, her school was forming its first robotics team. My husband and I encouraged her to join. I thought I knew the basics of what a robotics …

Coffee with Coffey

By Michael Brott, communications manager

Thank you to all who participated in our June Coffee with Coffey conversation. (Can you tell I like alliteration?). Family development has been growing this new format as a way to to provide a more informal opportunity for sharing and learning between off-campus staff and Coffey hall. We believe our work is better when we are more connected to each other. Recent feedback has been very positive and constructive. The remaining 2018 Coffee with Coffey dates have been added to your calendars. As always, recordings of past conversations are on our FD intranet.

FD in the news

Here’s a monthly roundup of regional media coverage on the work of Family Development staff and partners.

Hillside Farmers Market to open June 19
Howie Hanson (blog)

Thanks to Hunger Solutions Minnesota and Essentia Health, SNAP customers are matched one-to-one, up to $15 dollars per market day, when using an EBT card at the market. Any children under 18 receive free $4 tokens to spend on produce through the Power of Produce (PoP) Club, with funding from Essentia Health and University of Minnesota Extension.

Crookston’s Marketplace debuts Thursday
Crookston Times

Stay tuned every Thursday for a new Marketplace theme with free entertainment and activities, plus, beginning July 12, the University of Minnesota Extension Power of Produce grant will be available weekly for kids ages 0-18 to receive vouchers for free produce from the Crookston Farmer’s Market.

Veterans harvest market, Power of Produce returns to Prior Lake
Jordan Independent

In 2017, the market raised nearly $4,000 for veteran…

Reflecting on preventing suicide and building community

By Trish Olson, director of programs, Extension Center for Family Development


I am sharing the authorship of the blog with week with multiple coauthors. A little over a week ago I sent a reflection to my colleagues on 4th floor Coffey Hall about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and it sparked many thoughtful responses and resources. So, with their permission, I am re-posting this email trail (something I usually do not recommend). I thank my colleagues for letting me share their reflections to my initial email.

I think posting my email conversation reflects a way to build community in the Extension Center for Family Development (FD). The first step is sharing a concern, a joy, or a vulnerability, and the second step is for the rest of us to provide a simple acknowledgement to tell someone they are heard and to inform them of resources if we know of any.

We structure the Family Matters blog so you can respond or reply or simply say… “I hear you.” Please use the blog in this way to …

Cohort of 20 graduate from Financial Educator Certificate Program

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

Twenty more community professionals now have the tools and confidence to teach people better ways to manage their finances thanks to the Financial Educator Certificate (FEC) Program.

Welcome to new SNAP-Ed educator Faro Jones

By Janice Rasmussen, SNAP-Ed regional coordinator

I am excited to introduce Faro Jones, our newest SNAP-Ed educator working out of the Extension Ramsey County office in Maplewood. Faro will be part of the Frogtown-Rondo place-based approach team and will teach classes and do policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) work around the Twin Cities-metro area. After training later this month, she will begin teaching I CAN Prevent Diabetes classes.

Smarter Lunchrooms collaborative–A tale of two states

By Nikki Johnson, Area Extension specialist, North Dakota State University
In the beginning In fall 2016, University of Minnesota Extension, along with the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office and key organizations in the state, formed the Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative. The collaborative’s goal is to improve the school nutrition environment by making the healthy choice the easy choice.

Collaborative members meet each quarter to get the latest news from the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office at Cornell University. They also discuss marketing strategies, capacity building, funding opportunities, and best practices for implementation techniques. (See Kelly Kunkel’s blog entry elsewhere in Family Matters for more information.)