2021 JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development Conference Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Jacqueline Amor-Zitzelberger, Pennsylvania
Upon reflection, I realize that our institution has embraced the recent changed due to the pandemic and is leading the way to provide better service for our constituents. I took note that the legislative support staff was not really aware of the services of Extension other than ag, 4-H, and nutrition programs. I remember that it's important to know your stuff, know who you're stuffing and keep on stuffing and to have a provocative vision. After listening to others, I'm proud to be a part of the Penn State effort to regularly inform our representatives of our efforts and build trust within the organization and the community again.

Shelley Balls, Wyoming
I really enjoyed having the opportunity to attend the PILD 2021 Conference this year, it was a great learning experience. I think one of the main topics of this conference, which was sharing our information about who we are as extension educators, and what we do was such an important topic that many of us who attended this conference felt was very helpful. In the presentation one of the presenters mentioned, "Stop having Extension Services be the best kept secret across the US", which stood out to me. I enjoyed learning about tips on ways to share innovative projects that we are working on, but also the importance of sharing what we have continually been providing to the community, such as teaching safe food preservation classes. One thing that I could do better in my work is capitalize on success stories and impacts and utilize social media to showcase those impacts. I also thought it was important to remember the hero of the story is always the one benefiting from the program, such as food pantry recipients, and tell their story. And one of my favorite takeaways during the talking with stakeholder's presentation was the quote, "Know your stuff, know who you are stuffing and keep on stuffing." Thank you for the scholarship, which allowed me to attend this year's PILD Conference.

Amy M. Bartels, Missouri
PILD (Public Issues Leadership Development) conference was a positive experience, despite being virtual.  Dr Cruzado and Cody Stone stressed the challenges around leadership using the book The Leadership Challenge, which is one that we also used in our state. The session on Structure and Funding with Bill Hoffman, Lyla Houglum, and Robin Shepard was helpful in understanding the bigger picture of Extension nationwide.  I enjoyed the sessions about Telling Our Story.  On day 1, Chris Watkins, Cornell Extension Director, ECOP Chair, talked about the importance of the 1890's institutions and providing education to underserved audiences.  On day 2, Kate Fink took the Telling Our Story a step further and talked about how to tell our story to stakeholders, funders, legislators.  There were a few quotes that captured what she was saying, "Know your stuff, know who you are stuffing, and keep on stuffing".  That is important as we continue to see a decline in funding in many of our states and counties, and an increase need to partner with outside entities to further our mission as family and consumer science professionals.  Another highlight for me was the opportunity to meet with key legislators from Missouri via zoom.  I was able to meet with both house and senate personnel to talk about a few of the programs I am working on in my area.  Without this virtual capability, we would have missed this wonderful time to connect and "tell our story" to the folks that represent us on Capitol Hill.

Cheryl Bush, Maryland
Attending PILD virtually this year fulfilled a personal need to know where our leaders anticipate we're going after a year of tumult and to develop a stronger knowledge-base of what constitutes the APLU's request for $100 Million for NIFA.  I am excited to share notes from inspiring presentations, discussion from chats, the Cooperative Extension document that delineates how we're a unique system, the 40+ Common Extension Acronyms, and the APLU's Unified Request for Funding as resources for my colleagues. Thank you for a scholarship to attend this year to know my "stuff", remember who I am "stuffing", and to be confident to innovate and "keep on stuffing"!  A professional development for me attending the conference is confidence in my ability as the VP, Public Affairs, for our Maryland Affiliate to communicate what inspired leadership is and why Extension programs must continue to innovate, learn and grow from failures, and find our mission by losing ourselves  serving others.  Gathering in person for PILD in 2022 will enable us to share our local experiences of continuing the NEAFCS mission through the challenging days of an international pandemic, meet directly with our legislators to show appreciation for listening to our needs and doing their hard work to allocate our nation's assets, and to reflect on how our trials have tested us in fire, in order to bear gold.

Joy Czmyrid, New Mexico
I enjoyed my first NEAFCS PILD conference very much.  It made very aware of the importance of meeting with our legislators, telling our story and the best ways to go about this.  I love the Elizabeth Warren quote I heard during the conference, "If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu".  I also loved "know your stuff, know who you are stuffing, and keep on stuffing"!  The conference put so many great new tools in my toolbox to use.  Thank you!

Olivia Dawn Davis, Oregon
My name is Olivia Davis, Oregon State University Extension Outreach Program Coordinator, and I have been with extension for 6 years. In the beginning, my time with extension was fast paced and full of a multitude of information. Actually it still is but now I have more understandings of processes and the meaning behind extension. Joining the NEAFCS made me nervous, I wasn't sure what I would need to do as a member; would it be worth the county dollars used for membership? would I belong? These and more thoughts raced through my mind my first local affiliate meeting. Attending the PILD conference is the first real step I’ve taken to learn more about NEAFCS and the opportunities it provides for networking, support, and professional development. The virtual platform made it possible for me to attend the conference and benefit from its sessions and environment. Within the short two half-day conference agenda, I found many meaningful and inspiring conversations within each session. Helpful ideas and guidance for how to share our extension stories and how to best depict what the “hero’s” of the community are doing and how we as their champions are helping them get there. I now have a better understanding of the importance of writing impact statements, that before seemed rather daunting, on a national level, and have identified additional resources to support writing them. Attending PILD was a wonderful opportunity, incredibly inspiring and supportive. 

Toi Degree, North Carolina
I attended the 2021 Professional Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference, my first; the theme for this year's conference was, Building Our Future Together. My experience was an enlightening one that began with an awesome opening from Montana State University President, Dr. Cruzado - Why Extension Matters. Dr. Cruzado started with the history of how Extension began, and then Cruzado went on to outline the five exemplary objectives of a leader and how to lead effectively.  Throughout Dr. Cruzado’s opening keynote, she and Cody Stone tag-teamed to create both a personal and heartwarming picture of how Montana State University facility, staff, and students evolved during the pandemic.  To work together to make a truly trying time an opportunity to reach out and uplift each other and their community.  Telling Your Extension Story, panel discussion, and the conservation with House and Senate Staffers was by far my most favorite and where I gleaned the most. Everything from knowing your stuff - being at the top of your game, and being flexible.  To knowing who you are stuffing - knowing the environment, who you are going to speak with, building partnerships, sharing (good) stories.  To finally, keep on stuffing with the ask, outlining where you are coming from, putting a face to the request, leave-behinds (short and concise), and having fun!  How to visit virtually vs. in-person meeting and the do and don’ts were great!  A very insightful conference that all Extension Agent needs to attend at least one in his/her career!!

Lisa Fishman, Maine
Dr. Waded Cruzado first impressed me at the 2016 Annual Session in Big Sky, Montana. and her session at PILD, as the keynote, was another reason to be impressed.  She set the task before all of us, as educators emerging from a nation-wide crisis, to advance our leadership NOW, and not let this moment pass.  This presentation set the tone for the rest of PILD, for me.  Panelists that shared the tools to help tell the Extension story also encouraged us to make the most of this opportunity to convey to our collaborators, partners, communities, and colleagues just how important Extension is in the face of adversity.  We ARE the trusted voice people turn to, we ARE the source for reliable information, we ARE the ones who will make it possible to keep people engaged during frightening times.  We were moved into the place where not only SHOULD we tell our story, we MUST tell our story, and we were given tools and resources to make sure we were able to tell that story authoritatively and with backing founded in research and impacts.  We were encouraged not only to tell our stories, and to whom we should tell those stories, but were also given ideas for how to tell those stories.  I found PILD 2021 to be grounded in usefulness and resourcefulness.

Hannah Guenther, Nebraska
I have always heard wonderful things about the PILD conference by current and past Extension Educators. When the opportunity was given to attend the virtual 2021 conference, I was thrilled to experience the professional development opportunity for myself. As a relatively new Extension Professional (3 years), it is very easy for me to forget that my role goes beyond my county lines. With so much of my work focused on local constituents, I forget that Extension is a role that is impacted on a National level and it is vital for the longevity of my role to be constantly communicating my work to my local commissioners as well as statewide senators. The 2021 PILD agenda was heavily focused on “telling the story” of Extension as a whole as well as individually. Key points that I took away from the conference was how to share the impact without just sharing the numbers. Having 100 attendees is great, but telling the story of how it impacted a participant’s life - that is great! After the conference, I feel more confident and excited to develop relationships with my local commissioners by finding those personal connections that I can tie into my programming. I plan to use the information gleaned from the PILD conference to better share and promote the work that is being done in Extension by me personally but also as a whole and as a national entity. 

Teresa Hatfield, Kansas
I enjoyed attending the virtual PILD conference. I received some very good information. I appreciated the session on the “Structure and Funding of Extension”. There is so much that I don’t know about Extension even after serving as an agent for over eight years. I was intrigued as to how states without 1890 schools might be willing to collaborate with 1862 extension programs. It seems that there is a lot we could learn from each other. It was helpful to learn the structure and function of some of the other organizations that work together with Extension as well.

Mindy Mayes, Indiana
With PILD being held virtually, I was sad that we would not get the opportunity to meet in person in DC. However, this conference was very informative on communication and sharing the Extension message to stakeholders. I am sure like many I have heard that Extension is not an essential service in our community. Yet, after PILD, the idea that although not mandated, we are still essential. Every day we provide research-based information to those we serve. As I think of the idea individuals, community leaders and decision makers think Extension is not essential, we must learn how to tell the impact that Extension makes. Who better to tell your story than yourself? As we tell our story we must remember where we are coming from, and describe not what we are not, but more of what we are. We must identify the tables that we are not present at, and either find ways to be present at the table, and or find champions to represent us and fight on our behalf.  After this conference I have walked away empowered to lead as an Extension Educator. As shared with us in the opening session, we are called to: model, inspire others with a shared vision, find ways to enable others to act, learn productive ways to challenge the process, and lastly, encourage with the heart.

Latonya Ramsey, Mississippi
I loved how the conference served as a place where ideas could be communicated swiftly and succinctly. The Whova platform was excellent in helping to maintain this. Communication topics apart from the sessions and keynotes were learning about some of the different programming and leadership approaches that other around the world are doing. I was able to get some helpful tips in making my extension visibility better in my community and with other leadership/funders in my community and state. I was very happy to learn the five areas of Extension that will be concentrated on in the future as I will be sharing this with my colleagues. What election officials want to hear was a great session. The sessions moved smoothly and an increased amount of discussion was done that I have not found in many other conference platforms.  I learned so much about the environment of those on Washington and how to make the time when I am in their presence count and beneficial for all involved. I really enjoyed the PILD conference as a first-timer.

Molly Soeby, North Dakota
Of all the speakers I listened to at PILD, I enjoyed Dr. Waded Cruzado from Montana State University the most. Her presentation was on leadership. She identified 5 things that exemplary leaders share.  1.Model the Way a. Justin Smith Morrel envisioned that we are called to educate the citizenry, the sons and daughters of the industrial classes, not just the wealthy. The dream is for the common good.  2.Inspire a Shared Vision a. The domain of leaders is the future. Sharing brings us together. Community vitality is important as is talking about our families and thinking about possibilities. 3.Challenge the Process a. We are at our best when we are not afraid of asking why. We need to search for opportunities to innovate and improve. 4.Enable Others to Act a. Make it possible for others to do well. The most powerful statement is “need your help.” 5. Encourage the Heart a. People are often tempted to give up so recognize contribution. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. Dr Cruzado talked about three important things to do every day. 1.Communicate 2. Communicate 3. Communicate She also recommended a couple of books on leadership. “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner “The Years that Matter Most” by Paul Tuft

Sara Sprouse, Iowa
I am so appreciative of the opportunity to attend the 2021 Public Issues Leadership Development Conference. The opening keynote speaker, Dr. Cruzado, was inspiring. I loved the qualities she described of a leader at their best and how she related these qualities to COVID-19 response. The review of structure and funding of Extension is always a helpful reminder that reinforces the importance of being able to communicate this to decision makers and how it relates to my ability to function as a field specialist. This information is essential when telling our story and depicting the positive impact of Extension, showing how we add value to our communities. A panelist summed up what we do very succinctly - "I am your educational partner for life". I value the information learned during PILD and will use it to guide my interactions with decision makers at the local, state, and national level.

Lauren Wells, Tennessee
I appreciate the opportunity to attend this conference. This conference was timely. The first day, I learned why it's imperative to actively involve stakeholders in what exactly we are doing as agents on the county levels. It's important that they know the impacts of the programming we deliver and this also creates stronger relationships, when they can see that the needs are being met and changes being made. Day 2, I chose the session titled Communication Skills for Extension Educators: Leading the Message. I'm glad I chose that one. As a new agent, with less than 2 years experience, it can sometimes be overwhelming having to attempt to deliver programs without strong partnerships. I've gotten more familiar over time but the pointers in this presentation were spot on. Some things that stood out were: knowing your audiences and tooting your own horn. Knowing the target audience can help you be more present in the presentation, rather than questioning whether or not you're reaching the audience with relevant information. Tooting our own horns is something we often think of as bragging. We do things that should be bragged about. Lastly, the NEAFCS PILD association meeting made me realize even more that I don't just want to be a member but furthermore an active member. I'm excited about learning more about leadership and studying the leadership ladder so that I may always be a great leader, on and off the job. Thank you for this experience.

Kayla Wells, Washington
As a first-time attendee of JCEP PILD, I had no idea what to expect. I was hesitant to have high expectations of [yet another] virtual conference. I feel like I may have gone into the conference with low expectations, and those expectations were not only met, but surpassed! My biggest take-always from the conference were in the areas of leadership and telling our Extension story. It is interesting to me how much overlap there is between the leadership qualities that were discussed during the conference and the guidance presenters gave on telling our story. For example, in the opening session, the five qualities of leadership were: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart. When we effectively tell our Extension story to elected officials, those five qualities of leadership also apply. We model the way by remembering our purpose when we tell our stories. When we connect with our audience to make an authentic connection, we’re communicating a shared vision. We can challenge the process by telling our stories through social media. Whenever we communicate with elected officials and tell our stories, we’re encouraging and enabling others to act on our behalf.  And finally, we encourage the heart by focusing on the difference we’ve made in peoples’ lives and within communities and making authentic connection with our elected officials.

Carrie Elsen, Missouri
Attending this 2021 JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference was very eye-opening experience. I learned about leadership and guides to leading at my best. The conference speakers were able to clarify the steps needed to help me lead at my best. All my leadership and teamwork effort will go unnoticed if I do not educate the public and local officials about the value and impact of what extension has to offer. I specifically learned why it was important to provide my local legislators a one pagers about specific topics of interest to extension.

Christina Garner, Georgia
Wow! What an awesome week. I have been involved in Extension for nearly 4 years now and I have never experienced a conference like JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development. The conference was presented in a manner that created a great learning environment even via Zoom that exposed me to many things I had never experienced. My current county is a small, rural county in Southwest Georgia. Often, I am not able to complete many professional development opportunities as funds are stretched thin. If the Conference Scholarship had not been available, I would not have been able to attend the conference. One of my top notes from the Conference was “Always take the meeting.” This small statement reminded me that even though you may not be meeting with the person you really wanted to interact with, it still counts. You never know who the person you are meeting with is friends with or happens to be sitting next to at the next meeting. Going hand and hand with that is “always have your story ready.” It is crucial to be prepared to share about Extension programing at any point and time. I believe in the session, she referred to it as stuffing; “keep on stuffing.” But in order to stuff, you must know your work: know your work, know your data, know your value and always be at the table. I am thankful this opportunity was available and incredibly thankful for the doors it opened for me professionally!

Carrie Krug, Montana
As a first-time attendee to the PILD conference, I found a lot of the presented information very insightful regarding funding and ways to tell our story. I did know that all states' funding was structured differently; however, from attending the structure and funding program, I learned more about the differences and found the poll breakdowns very insightful. I also attended the workshop on what local elected officials want to hear and that communication is key. Communication was brought up a lot throughout the conference, and that it is also important to tailor your message to your audience. Another takeaway that I got from the conference was: we are the best salesmen of what we do because we are the ones doing it. Overall, I thought the conference had a lot of valuable information that can help us tell our story.

Robin Ridgley, Illinois
Attending the PILD Conference as a new Extension Family Life Educator was inspiring.  Admittedly, I was intimidated at first since my experience in communicating with elected officials is very slim (not to mention, I barely know my job).  I am still learning what Extension is all about, and because of attending the 2021 JCEP PILD, I am inspired to be an Educator who communicates with my elected officials by sharing impact stories from my county and across the state as well as asking what they would like to see in their constituents' communities.  We need to convince them that we want to be their educational partners for life, making stronger families, more vibrant communities, and more lucrative business.  This is a win for them and the communities!  Using social media to interact, communicating via email, and remembering hand-written thank you notes after meetings are acceptable ways of fostering a successful relationship with them.  I am also inspired to be a Disruptive Innovator, considering the accessibility, capacity, responsiveness, simplicity, and customization of the future programs that I will be helping to create.  Attendees were reminded of the boarded-up Blockbuster stores and how innovative they once were.  We don't want our programs to share the same fate.  I also came away from the conference with tips for presenting an effective and successful program to my attendees.  Always keeping the goal in mind and knowing the audience are foundational to informing, influencing, changing behaviors, and motivating.   Thank you all for this opportunity!

Laura Robertson, Arkansas
JCEP’s PILD conference was very informative and provided me with lots of helpful information. Thank you to NEAFCS for the scholarship to attend the conference. The scholarship allowed for me to attend when I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do so. My four key take ways from the conference were:  1.Extension needs Innovation-Dr. Hibberd’s presentation created a spark for my extension programming. I liked the examples of innovation in extension that he gave, which included going beyond just the use of technology, but innovating in funding, needs assessments, and instructional design. I really liked the concept of co-creation and co-learning that he presented and can see myself situating these concepts into my county level programming to develop a holistic coalition to solve our communities’ problems.  2.Extension Work Requires Self-Compassion and Mindful Communication-one of the breakout sessions was exploring self-compassion and mindful communication. I really enjoyed this session because I learned a lot about myself and how I can be more compassionate towards my work. It was also very helpful to learn about and apply mindful communication skills to real-life situations.  3.Stories Matter-throughout the conference there were numerous opportunities to learn more about storytelling from various perspectives. I appreciated the variety of perspectives when exploring ways to tell the extension story. My main take way was the importance of our clientele telling their story, as the story and impact are much more authentic when it comes directly from them.  4.Opportunities Abound with the Extension Foundation-I was excited to learn about the Extension Foundation and the numerous funding and professional development opportunities they are offering. Oftentimes this information doesn’t get translated to county level agents, and this conference allowed for me to become aware of the opportunities and be mindful of connecting with state specialists to apply for these funding opportunities. I would have never discovered these opportunities if I did not attend PILD.

Becca Stackhouse, Georgia
PILD conference provided myself with history and education on land grant Universities. This is helpful in understanding the background of land grant universities and where they all started. The other aspect that was great was to learn how to best share your County Extension impact with those who work in government from the house of representatives and their staffers.

Cecilia Stevens, Louisiana
As a local food systems coordinator for the LSU AgCenter, I found both direction and encouragement from the 2021 Public Issues Leadership Development Conference.  My program is funded through the CDC, the USDA, and a land-grant university (LSU).  An important component of my job description is collaboration and public relations between those entities and elected officials on the local, state, and federal levels.  The session on Tuesday "Telling Extension's Story" spoke to my questions of how to convey professional knowledge about my program along with personal experiences to show relevance.  Wednesday's sessions "What Elected Officials Want to Hear" and "Conversations with House and Senate Staffers" were also beneficial with suggestions for addressing officials at all three elected levels.  A comment from Congressional staff member Riya Mehta resonated as she reminded Extension personnel to take an offered Congressional meeting, no matter how short the meeting or how "low level" the staffer because that short meeting may open important doors and that low-level staffer of today maybe the chief of staff for a legislator's office tomorrow.  The takeaway?  Tell Extension's story and its impact to ensure future funding and impact opportunities.  The capstone message on Wednesday took a roundtable format as a variety of professionals shared experiences and resources on how to be innovative.  In a society facing challenges as unique as Covid-19 and as age-old as poverty and food access, such leadership innovation is necessary if Extension is to remain relevant to lawmakers when prioritizing and funding programs.

Gail Wright, Indiana
I was able to attend the PILD Conference 2021 because of the grant offered by NEAFCS. I was not sure what to expect - but I was amazed at the conclusion of the conference how much I had been educated and inspired to communicate more effectively and efficiently with Extension Stakeholders and federal, state, and local officials. For me, the panel discussions were most impactful. The succinct presentations on the "Structure and Funding of Extension" gave me so much insight on the various ways funding comes in to Extension and the complexity of the system. More than one session noted the importance and "telling our story" and knowing your audience. The statement, "Know your stuff, know who you are stuffin', and keep on stuffin'" is such a great reminder to talk to whoever, in a language they understand, and effectively share what they need to know. Have a hero and make it memorable and personal to them. I have many notes and hope to find innovative ways (take time to find innovative ways) to implement just a few of the things I learned. Thank you Gail Wright Extension Educator Health and Human Sciences Purdue Extension - Parke County

Jeanne Erickson, North Dakota
As I reflect on my experience attending the 2021 PILD conference, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about leadership, and ways to effectively share my Extension story. I gained valuable information and was so impressed by the individuals who presented. Though the conference was virtual, I was able to feel each speaker's passion expressed throughout their presentations.   Dr. Waded Cruzado, President of Montana State University was truly amazing. The stories she shared of tradition and encouragement were inspiring. I liked her statement regarding the three things a person should do every day. They are, "Communicate. Communicate. Communicate."   Dr. Chuck Hibberd's presentation, along with his two co-presenters was excellent. Dr. Hibberd asked the audience, "Have you learned more from your successes or from your mistakes?" It was an eye-opening question and one I pondered for a while. As a person who has always tried to do my best, I often put too much pressure on myself to not make a mistake. Reflecting on Dr. Hibberd's question has helped me see mistakes not as negative, but as a beneficial way to learn.   Finally, I enjoyed the many ways the presenters engaged the audience. Through the chat box, poll questions and Word cloud, these interactive features were useful for participants to feel connected in a virtual conference.  I appreciated this wonderful opportunity and hope to someday attend the PILD conference in person, and most of all be continually challenged to generate effective change and outcomes.

Danielle Day, Iowa
All the presentations and speakers were inspiring and helped reenergize my passion for the work that we do as Extension Educators, as well as my passion for sharing about the wonderful work we do with others. The opening keynote really resonated with me as they talked through the Leadership Challenge and the five things leaders do when at their best. Takeaways from that keynote were remembering to how to stay in my lane, remembering that at our best we are not afraid to ask why and step into the unknown, and remembering that everyone on the team should have a sense of ownership. It was hard to choose one breakout. I chose Self-Compassion and Mindful Communication with Extension Stakeholders. This session was extremely relevant during this stressful time of Covid. It really helped do that personal check-in with reminders to simply be present, authentic, genuine, and transparent. Takeaways that resonated with me were to ask before saying yes "Is that really doable" and "Imperfection is what makes extension relevant." I gained a new understanding on communicating with legislators and I was able to learn to streamline communication and know what to have ready to go into a meeting with an elected official or staffer. Focusing on innovation was a wonderful way to end the conference and focus on what extension education really is about. The simple thought of "If we aren't addressing critical issues, we aren't fulfilling our mission" is one that I will carry through my work.

Amanda Jo Dame, Kentucky
After attending the PILD Conference for the first-time my confidence in speaking to elected officials regarding the work Cooperative Extension has been enhanced. The conference speakers and concurrent sessions given me more insight into what elected officials want to hear about our organization. Additionally, by attending the conference I feel I have developed skills that will help me share information in a professional and confident way to both local, state, and national elected officials. The time has come for Cooperative Extension to stop being "the best kept secret". To achieve this Extension as an organization must work together in promoting our successes. One point that stuck with me from the PILD Conference is a quote from Elizabeth Warren "if you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu". My goal after attending this conference is to take every opportunity to utilize the skill and knowledge gained from this conference to share the great work Cooperative Extension is achieving.

Angela DeSmith, Wisconsin
I attended PILD for the first time, April 2021.The conference had traditionally been held in-person; however, it was held virtually for the first time this year. I can only imagine the networking opportunities that take place during in-person events. Even though it was held virtually there were numerous opportunities to network. I was able to connect with a few attendees and compare curricula we are utilizing with nutrition education. I was surprised to learn we are using the same curricula for the most part. I joined some of the formed networking groups and participated in photo submissions. The sessions I attended followed the theme of "Telling Our Story" and not keeping Extension the best kept secret anymore. I can not wait to listen to the recordings of concurrent sessions I was unable to attend during the conference. Also, I am looking forward to reading a few books that were recommended such as: Failing Forward, Innovation Imperative, and The Leadership Challenge. Lastly, I was amazed of the representation of attendees from many states. Thank you for the opportunity to attend the conference! I look forward to attending the conference in future years.

Tammy Jones, Ohio
The opportunity to attend the 2021 Virtual PILD Conference provided me with a deeper understanding of how to tell the Extension story to others.  The ideas shared during several sessions gave me new terms to use with stakeholders.  This experience also gave me the opportunity to meet with legislative aides from two congressional offices.  Although via Zoom, it was a great conversation.

Meagan Brothers, Indiana
Even though we were not able to attend PILD live in Washington, DC this year, it was still a beneficial experience. During the course of the two-day conference, we heard from a variety of speakers from all parts of the country talking about the "why" and "how" of Extension stories. These speakers shared personal experiences along with research to help us determine how, when, what, and why in sharing our Extension stories with local, state, and federal stakeholders. Bottom line: they want to hear from us! Our powerful impacts are heard and appreciated. Opportunities like this make me feel even more passionate about the work of Extension. We are a huge network doing incredible things, and we have to share those stories so we can no longer be the "best kept secret!"

Aurora Calvillo Buffington, Nevada
I was thrilled to be selected as a recipient of the 2021 NEAFCS Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference Scholarship. The conference was easy for me to attend as it was virtual, and I was determined to be present and take in as much as I could learn. I was not disappointed! From the beginning keynote session delivered masterfully by President Waded Cruzado of Montana State University sharing the five things that happen when a leader is at her best, to the capnote session describing the practice of innovation with the inspiring title of "We Can do This!" the sessions were packed with relevant information to increase my capacity as an Extension professional. Although I had an idea of how Extension operates, the structure and funding session led by WEDA, NCCEA, and NIFA helped me realize there's more for me to learn and so many great resources that I haven't tapped into yet. I learned about better communicating my story, which is essential to keep our community, legislators, and other stakeholders in the loop and supportive of our work. And, even though I feel pretty confident in my ability to communicate with legislators, I found the conversation with house and senate staffers to be stimulating and an excellent reminder of how elegant communication goes a long way when speaking to time-constrained and influential people in politics. Overall, I am very pleased to have been able to attend the PILD Conference and recommend it highly to new and seasoned Extension professionals.

Mitzi Leigh Parker, Georgia
This was my first time attending the PILD Conference, and I thought the virtual 2021 conference was very informative and engaging.  I enjoyed Dr. Cruzdo's address and each presentation/speaker provided different ideas and strategies to improve my skills and build my relationships with local leaders, audiences, and the community.  I would like to thank NEAFCS for the opportunity to attend the 2021 JCEP PILD Conference.  I will certainly embrace the strategies presented to effectively promote Extension so that instead of a "well-kept secret" Extension is known throughout the community as a valuable source of research-based information.

Kate Welshons, Minnesota
Attending PILD was a great opportunity to learn how to develop effective communication and storytelling strategies that help demonstrate the impact and importance of Extension programming. Here are a few of my key takeaways:  When speaking with elected officials, it's important to emphasize the ways in which Extension aligns with county and state goals and that we are a thriving and collaborative entity that directly serves their constituents.  Although planning and preparation are a key part of the process of speaking with elected officials, you must also expect to plan for contingencies and have a back up plan - certainly something 2020 has taught us all!  Preparing also includes researching your audience -- learn more about who you are speaking with and how your "˜ask' might align with the priorities of their office.  Advocating on behalf of Extension does not begin or end with meeting with elected officials -- it's of equal importance that we build public support by attending open local government meetings, educate public policy decision-makers, and to continuously build coalitions.  As Extension professionals, we must also pursue an ongoing commitment to leadership development. This will help strengthen our skills as storytellers and advocates for Extension programming.

Shannan Chevallier, MS, Louisiana
I am elated to have had the opportunity to attend the PILD Conference. This was my first time to attend and WOW!  I was inspired, to lead more innovative programming. In order to be wiser, I have to be better at adapting to circumstances around me, just as water molds itself to the pitcher in which it fills. Attending this amazing conference, motivated me to be an even stronger leader to those around me, to lead an organization that will be an education partner for life, training leaders to continue in the years to come. One phrase that stood out to me was "Exemplary leadership practices make an impact: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart!" As a leader we have to be at the table having discussions, and in the middle of the planning process, if we aren't, then we are just an item on the menu. We must learn to communicate, communicate, communicate! We have to be proactive and don't lose heart or grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap our harvest. Communication is everything and community interaction is an important key to success. My favorite quote for the conference was, "Know your stuff, know who you are stuffing and keep stuffing." I could go on and on! I loved all the different avenues that were available for interaction between everyone attending. Thank you for the opportunity to attend this exhilarating conference.

Emily Hines, Alabama 
The PILD Conference was an amazing experience filled with a plethora of valuable information. From the Keynote Speakers to the concurrent sessions, this conference motivated, encouraged, and sparked innovative ideas to provide leadership in our respective roles as well as around our state. Dr. Cruzado and Cody Stone captivated our attention with their discussion on leadership and the reminder that we are called to serve our citizens. The five principles they shared of becoming the leader that not only leads their team but inspires and motivates their team to move into their own leadership roles due to the leadership style observed by each of us.  Telling Extension's Story gave us insights on what and how to share the important work we all do. These sessions offered insights into how to tell our story. By weaving together stories that we accumulate over a period of time, we can show the impact that we have in our state. It is important to know how to relay our message, what to include, and what to spotlight. These sessions provided great guidance on how to promote our work and the impact that we make. During the Communication Skills for Extension Educators: Leading the Message, we were given guidance on how to develop an idea and deliver our message. In this concurrent session, we were given tools to help us  have an engaging presentation. These are just a few of the highlights that I came away with from this amazing conference.

Alyssa Whittaker, Delaware
The PILD conference allowed me to gain insight into the structure of Extension and the importance of connecting with local government officials to support the work we do for the community. Through my work with SNAP-Ed, as well as my work with 4-H by attending the PILD conference I feel more comfortable considering more closely public policy related to nutrition and education standards with my work. Specifically after attending the PILD I feel like I have questions I didn't know I had answered about the funding structures of LGU's. Having started my position as an Extension Agent fully remote, this opportunity to network and hear from other states was invaluable to me. The teamwork and leadership discussions were particularly helpful, and I plan to use resources shared in my work with managing interns and engaging with community partners. Overall I found this conference valuable as a new employee and wish to return in the future as my perspective shifts with furthering my work.

Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, South Dakota
PILD was a professional development opportunity that gave me more information about how to work in Extension than I have received in the past 5 years. I realize this sounds like an exaggeration, but I have never had anyone explain to me the value of promoting my work to help influence how Extension is viewed. The tips provided on how to communicate with legislators were empowering. I have always felt as though senators and representatives are off-limits. I was enlightened to learn how important it is to build those relations to sustain our work. Learning tips on how to tell our story and the review of historical acts that created Cooperative Extension were informative. I hope to include PILD as an annual professional development opportunity.

Gina Lucas, Missouri
My biggest takeaway from PILD this year was how essential communicating our value is as Extension representatives.  I work very hard in my community and do a great deal of programming, so I tend to focus on Extension at the local level.  I do professional development on a national level, but I hadn't worked at all on communicating our collective impact.  I appreciate NEAFCS continually offering us these opportunities to grow as Extension professionals in ways that may not have been obvious in our day to day activities.  Unfortunately, funding cannot be ignored.  Adequate funding ensures our ability to amplify the message that we are trying to collectively spread - that information is for everyone.

Natalie Price, California
The PILD Leadership Conference exposed me to a wide variety of national extension professionals and networks, broadening my view of how extension operates outside of my own state, California. I was surprised to learn, however, that many states have the same struggles communicating their stories and spreading the word about the great programs, research, and education extension provides across the country. The conference challenged me to learn more about my county's funding structure so that I can effectively target messages to the appropriate audience. I found the session with the House and Senate staffers very interesting. Meeting with a Congress person feels intimidating, but after participating in the session, I feel like it is something I can and should be doing.  I also enjoyed closing session on innovation, which tied into the first session I attended that day on Oregon State University Extension's innovative Open Campus program. I believe innovation will be key to keeping extension relevant and responsive to community needs and to ensure continued funding. Extension is rooted in history, it is hard to create transformative innovation, but in large urban areas like mine, it is particularly imperative. In California we are very excited about new projects related to climate change; natural disaster mitigation; diversity, equity and inclusion; and research to policy. I think these efforts and more will take extension into the future.

Annie Sheldon, Florida
I was a first time attendee at PILD this year. Initially I was disappointed that I was not going to get to have all of the wonderful in person experiences that so many of my colleagues have spoken about but the virtual conference did not disappoint. Dr. Waded Cruzado's keynote address captured my attention and did a great job of setting the tone for the virtual PILD conference and all that we have faced in Extension due to COVID over the past year. As a new County Extension Director I found the content of all of the sessions very relevant to the work that I do each day. I especially enjoyed the sessions that focused on communication and educating elected officials about Extension. Thank you to NEAFCS for providing this scholarship to attend PILD and I hope that I get to see everyone next year in person.

Amy Ressler, Texas
I thoroughly enjoyed the PILD conference. Although I would have much rather attended in person, the online symposium was a nice alternative. The presentation by Waded Cruzado was probably my favorite. I am working on an advanced degree in Leadership Studies and seeing the Exemplary Leadership theory of Kouzes and Posner highlighted was especially gratifying. I also appreciated the examples of the each of the constructs: Model the Way; Inspire a Shared Vision; Challenge the Process; Enable Others to Act; and Encourage the Heart. Additionally, the other sessions related to understanding the funding and structure of Extension and the variation among states was helpful. Further, the tips on legislative visits were extremely useful! One statement that stuck with me was "know your stuff, know who you are stuffing, and keep stuffing!" I really appreciate the opportunity to attend this conference and am very grateful for the NEAFCS scholarship!

Mary Kizer, Arkansas
PILD aided participants in enhancing their Extension Advocacy from hometown to D.C. "If you don't have a seat at the table, you are on the menu", was followed with, "If you can't find a seat, find a champion who does have a seat".  Waded Cruzado said leaders: Model the Way, Inspire a Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, Encourage the Heart, and Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Send texts, e-mails and call legislators. Repeated consistent small gestures make a difference. A panel discussed Extension structure and funding. Bill Hoffman, USDA/NIFA said, "There are 70 different funding lines for Food & Agricultural Sciences. For funding tell a persuasive story with purpose, problem, defining point, and value for audience. People buy with emotion, justify with data, and all underpinned by diversity, equity, and inclusion."  Panelists stated:  Know your subject, Know your audience, Believe in the message, Practice, Practice again while timing it, and provide notes after the presentation.  Dr. Carrie Castillo, NIFA, said "Know your stuff, know who you are stuffing, and keep on stuffing".  Have a unified ask and use stories to make it real.  Caroline Henney, ECOP, said an Extension 101 power point is in development stage.  Capnote, Dr. Charles Hibberd, said, "There is an Innovator inside all of us. The faster we learn, the more progress we make".  During the NEAFCS Meeting we were told, "A leader is a person you will follow to a place that you would not go by yourself". "Thank You for the PILD Scholarship!

Rosie Allen, Kentucky
"Telling Extension's Story "“ What to include in our message" When planning to discuss our story, remember the milestones in a story: starting point, boiling point, defining point, connecting point. According to Andy Ferron, Chief Strategy Officer, National 4-H Council, it is easy to skip the starting point. The starting point must be included to set up the purpose. For example, in 4-H it's all about the young person and their success. The boiling point gives urgency to the development of the story and the "ask". For 4-H, the boiling point is "youth in jeopardy". Next, develop a clear and defining point. Take control of the story. Do not lay out a lot of information and expect people to find it or get it on their own. The defining point for 4-H is "opportunity for all". The most important part of bringing the story together is the connecting point. It is easier to make an authentic connection once you know the audience. Is your audience motivated by video or conversations or hearing from young people? Are they motivated by data and numbers? Are they motivated by hearing young people talk about data and numbers? Funders not only need to see the problem, they want to see a solution with specific data to back up the solution, which earns their support. One last tip from Faith Peppers, Director of Communications, USDA-NIFA, is Get Social! Tag key leaders with stories before your visit. Tag them again to say, "Thanks for the visit".

Elizabeth Christensen, Colorado
This year I attended the virtual PILD. It was the first time I attended PILD. I am currently the Vice President for Colorado Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. I just completed my third year as a FCS Extension Agent in Routt County Colorado. I am currently trying to determine what the next stage will be in my career, so that I can use this type to properly position myself. In particular, I am trying to decide between a more administrative role or an academic role. Attendance at PILD exposed me to the administrative opportunities at the state and national level in Extension. I am incredibly passionate about Extension and am excited about communicating the value of this incredible institution in my community and beyond. The tools and strategies presented during PILD were inspirational. I realized no matter my path moving forward, I want to continue to maintain a strong connection to elected officials.

Sydney Knowles, North Carolina
I truly enjoyed my first time at the PILD conference. In the opening session, I learned about how to be a better leader and the different attributes to aspire to as a leader in my community. Although I have attended many leadership trainings, this one was easy to relate to and understand. I have also never attended a session previously where I was able to learn how to properly tell our Extension story to stakeholders and senate staffers. For me, this was the most useful thing I learned as the speakers were very helpful in letting us know what to hone in on when presenting. Specifically, the conversation around being mindful of the senator's (or anyone whom we're presenting to) needs and background "“ know your stuff, who you're stuffin, and keep on stuffin! One pagers, defining what increased program funds for x program would do for the program, and having a focused ask were of most value to the senate staffers. This helps us to center our efforts and hopefully do a better job of defining our needs. To finish off the conference, I loved the discussion around learning speed vs execution. Sometimes in Extension we get blinded by the desire to just get it done, rather than focusing on the how & why. This year has been full of learning experiences, and reflection has been key to help virtual programs become successful. Thanks for this opportunity!

Carrie Vanderver, Georgia
Participating in the annual PILD conference was a great experience. This served as an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to better serve my program and my entire office to communicate and share our work with our communities, funders, elected officials, and supporters.

Vicki Wynn, Kentucky
The 2021 JCEP PILD conference was unique, but it was obvious that the planning committee thought of every detail to make a virtual event special. The Whova app was great for staying in touch with attendees, as well as a good tool to choose sessions and even get reminders that kept things flowing smoothly. I particularly enjoyed those speakers whose topic was 'Telling Extension's Story'. It is more important than ever to be an effective storyteller.

Jean Bailey, Oklahoma 
During the year 2020 there was much uncertainty and many changes in the world, in families, and in extension.  I, like all other extension educators, had the unique challenge of continuing to provide educational programming while learning and utilizing constantly changing methods and technology. Although the nation and state "shut down" those of us in extension were as busy as ever!  One statement I heard at a breakout session at PILD, that really made me stop and think was: Doing everything keep us so busy, we don't have time to think about what is really important to us. That described how I had been feeling. As the year 2021 began, there was still a lot of uncertainty.  Would we ever return to "normal" or would we continue to change, learn, adapt, and just keep going?  I am glad that I was able to attend PILD, even though it was virtual.  I enjoyed hearing about  adaptations that extension in other states made and are making during the pandemic. I was encouraged as I listening to other extension professionals and reflected on my own experiences.  We have been making changes quickly, out of necessity. But we have also discovered new technology and new ways of meeting the needs of our clientele.  Some of those changes and new methods will continue to be used and will propel us into the future.

Heather Simpson, Texas
I would first like thank NEAFCS for the scholarship opportunity. As a Better Living for Texans Extension Agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, we are funded through USDA and SNAP-ED, which don't always allow us the opportunity to attend conferences of this nature. I felt it was important for me to attend PILD to increase the program exposure in my county. As I don't have a Family and Community Health Extension Agent in my county, I feel that taking the  information I learned from this conference and interpreting our success is vital. I learned effective ways to communicate to elected officials that will not only interpret the programs but educate them on what extension brings to the county and the impacts we make each day. I enjoyed the app engagement, while this was a virtual conference, I was excited to attend and felt that the app helped with engaging agents throughout the week. Thank you again for the opportunity and I look forward to next year! The leadership skills through public issues interpretation and community programs I received during this conference will be useful for many years to come.

Paige Wray, Utah
Attending the virtual PILD conference this year was very beneficial and enlightening. I learned many things from how to approach your government leaders to tell our story to showcasing impacts that will make our work look as important to others as I already know it is. In Utah we always say that Extension is the best kept secret and we have been working to change that. PILD has given me some ideas to "work out loud" and showcase what I am doing as an extension educator. I will take what I have learned at PILD at use it to interact with our leaders and stakeholders on a local level and be ready if needed to interact with leaders and stakeholders on the state and national levels. I will be more intentional as to what I share and how I share it when it comes to my Extension programming. As the president of our state association, I will communicate the lessons learned so that others can also use this beneficial information.

Katherine Marin, Florida
On the topic of communication skills for extension workers, I found it helpful to present our impact story more skillfully. For example, to display an impact story, it is helpful to use method 353 to organize content. It seems to be in the way YouTube videos are presented, with the important pieces as clear as possible. We benefit from having a similar template in mind to effectively engage / inform our clients. For example, in method 353 we answer specific questions like what is being discussed, and what is expected to be actionable. The body of a high-impact message should include 3-5 main ideas or points, or sometimes just keywords. It is good practice to remind listeners of numbers and measurable value in meeting specific objectives and important goals. By indicating the value, we can help our audience remember the impact in a more specific way.  Our posts can be positioned to "sell" the story well simply by organizing the content process. The 353 method helps to identify a clear idea about what we do and then value about our history so that we can communicate it well to our stakeholders. By refining the scale of knowing how to best tell our story, we can better demonstrate experience, aptitude, and professional skill.

Pratibha Gupta, Ohio
Incorporate leadership in extension activities, develop and evaluate a program to help adults and youth, develop a close partnership with new organizations and ethnic population, serve diverse audience with various different programs and enhance the capacity of various programs in the area of health food nutrition. Incorporate programs for the elderly, educating them the technology and other related things that are more appropriate for their well-being. Collaborate with other extension county personnel, faculty, specialist, government agencies and stakeholders.