Public Issues and Advocacy-What CAN you do?

Debby Mathews (AL), VP for Public Affairs


When it comes to hot button topics, how should Extension professionals respond? Providing good quality, unbiased information for decision making is the hallmark of Extension work, but sometimes the line between education and advocacy becomes blurred.

Too, when it comes to telling our Extension FCS “story “to legislators, some universities forbid anyone except official university lobbyists to make “Hill” visits. So what CAN you do to address public issues and to advocate for Extension FCS?  You will find answers to these questions and more during the 2013 Public Issues Leadership Development Conference to be held April 21-24 in Alexandria, VA. For Early Birds, registration for Public Issues Leadership Development –What We CAN Do is available soon via www.jcep.org  .

Reports from three of the eighteen NEAFCS PILD 2012 scholarship recipients are included here.  They are by Susan Routh (OK), Joy Dugan (IN), and Cindy Baumgartner (IA). As you read them, think about the impact this conference could have on you professionally. Then, visit www.jcep.org  to learn more about the 2013 conference! Remember that NEAFCS provides twenty $150 PILD scholarships each year, and you could be one of the “winners” for 2013! Details will follow next month.

Susan Routh, Oklahoma

“Gratitude” was the word that Elizabeth Claypool, 2012 PILD Conference Chairperson, used to begin PILD. That word describes my experience at PILD. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend PILD. It far surpassed my expectations. I am grateful to OEAFCS officers who have attended previous PILD Conferences and shared their experiences to help prepare me for PILD and the Capitol Hill visits.

PILD provided networking experiences with Extension professionals from across the United States and with NIFA professionals such as Carolyn Croccoll, Acting Assistant Director of Youth, Family and Community. The presentations during PILD were very relevant, informative, and helped to prepare us as advocates for Extension during our visits to Capitol Hill. Like those before me, I have begun to share my experiences with the next OEAFCS delegate to PILD 2013. My goal is to prepare her for a wonderful experience at PILD and to help her prepare to advocate for Cooperative Extension at the Hill. I am truly grateful to NEAFCS and OEAFCS for providing financial support for the PILD Conference.

Attending the PILD Conference and the NEAFCS meeting that was held in conjunction with the conference was a very educational experience. It was my first in-person experience with NEAFCS at the national level and I enjoyed meeting and networking with other members.

“Impact Counts: Telling the Cooperative Extension Story to Stakeholders”, which was presented by Marshall Stewart was very helpful in preparing for our visits to the Hill. He emphasized relationships and the importance of building them before you need them. Like our NDSU Extension administration, he emphasized the importance of having both an elevator and a stump speech that you can pull out at any time. We were also reminded of the importance of “thank you” and the fact that it takes seven times to hearing something to make an impact.

The fact that we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act made this visit to our representatives especially significant. ND native Steve Stark presented a wonderful illustrated history of the Morrill Act which I never tire of seeing. Thank you for accepting my application for the $ 150 PILD scholarship. I look forward to future associations with NEAFCS.

Joy Dugan, Indiana

My attending PILD allowed me to gain insight into the national program partners that Extension can look to for initiative and resources. ..creating an understanding of the capacity of Extension. Meeting with congressmen and senators was tremendous. As we were making plans with each office, developing our messages, as well as arriving on site to experience the different congressional offices I had a sense of connectedness. My experience in having attended the PILD Conference will be of significance and motivation to continuously be alert to how best to connect resources and program initiatives for greatest impact for the constituents in my scope of work.

Cindy Baumgartner, Iowa

I attended the 2012 PILD Conference and found it to be an enriching and rewarding professional development experience in so many ways. As a first time attendee, I especially enjoyed learning about the history of our land-grant system and that the USDA was established 150 years ago. My father was an American history professor, so history has always been an important part of my life. To be physically immersed in all the history of Alexandria and the Washington, DC area was a thrill. Just thinking about who actually walked on the same soil and of the many legislative acts enacted early in our country’s history to preserve our freedom was humbling. Steve Stark’s illustrated presentation about the history of the land-grant system and Morrill Act was amazing!

I also really enjoyed learning about the different federal partners, such as NIFA, and meeting specific people (national program leaders) who work within those structures. I appreciated being reminded how important it is that to be able to articulate what I/we do in our Extension work. For instance, having a 3- second elevator speech and a 2-3 minute stump speech really got me thinking of having these roll off the tip of my tongue. Demonstrating public value is so important for our survival and growth.

Meeting and networking with people from other states was valuable in that I learned about trends they are seeing and the kind of responses in terms of programming they have had to these trends and emerging needs. Getting together with fellow NEAFCS members was great for idea sharing about resources and programs.

I had never been involved in Congressional visits until attending PILD. I thought the sessions to prepare us for our Capitol Hill visits were very helpful. In fact, because of hearing we need to really understand the committees our representatives serve on and their particular issues of concern, I stayed up late the night before our visits to research more about each of the five people my co-worker and I had appointments to visit. I felt more in control and could share personal stories of programming efforts I thought would be of most interest to them and most in line with their passions. Thank you much for the opportunity to be involved in PILD. It was an excellent and well-planned conference. I came back with a renewed sense of purpose and energy to provide education and service to people in the geographic region I serve.


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